A new lie is spreading in American politics. You know, one of those unprovable slanders that politicians fling at each other like stick grenades. It’s the “He’s a communist” thing from the 1950s, but communists are out of fashion these days.
Today, America is gaga about terrorists. But since it’s tough to accuse an opponent of being a terrorist without proof, the politicians had to step back and re-examine the situation. These politicians, they thought, “Why does terrorism have to be my enemy?” They decided that terrorism was going to work for them, and then they said, “Vote for my opponent, and you will not be safe from terrorists.”
And you know what? It worked.
When terrorists blew the World Trade Center all to hell in 2001, this country was shit-scared, running around in circles, flailing arms, all kinds of scared because these people these people these people they were after us and none of us had a blessed clue what was going on. It was the Red Scare all over again and everybody became concerned with National Security™.
Next thing you know, we’ve got all this business about how you can protect yourself from terrorists with a vote. Just one easy vote. Just one easy vote, and you’ll be safe from these shadowy figures who want to kill you because of your nice house and your flat-screen television. Check the box. Just check the box and I’ll make the bad men go away.
That’s the case that the Republicans made against John Kerry in 2004. It’s the case they made against everyone with a (D) next to their name in 2006. They’re making it about Obama in 2008. One candidate will prevent terrorist attacks, the other will not.
You know, they can put a bomb in a briefcase these days. This big bomb—it’ll wipe out a city—fits in a briefcase. Go to the center of any city on a weekday, stand on an intersection and just count the briefcases you see between noon and 1 p.m. See what I mean? One guy tried to blow up an airplane with his shoe, so now you have to take off your shoes before you get on a plane.
As Kurt Vonnegut said, “God help us if they find a way to make exploding pants.”
So do you feel safer now? Now that airport security rummages through your shit, do you feel invincible again? If we keep your plane on the ground while every bag is searched, if we put metal detectors in every public building, if we put bomb-sniffing dogs on every street, tap every phone and cram every inch of our borders with concrete walls and video cameras and razor wire, then can things go back to the way they used to be? Will our nation be “secure” then?
The way I see it, the issue is not “If so-and-so is elected another attack will occur,” but “If another attack is going to happen, it will happen regardless of who our president is.” The whole mess is insane, but when was the last time you heard a politician promise to stop people from dying in car accidents? If politicians weren’t worried about what people want to hear, they’d have told us by now that we will never be completely safe. I’ll say that again.
We will never be completely safe.
The world is a dangerous place, and it’s a lot smaller than it used to be. We can’t just keep the bad parts at an arm’s length anymore. Even if we blot out terrorism, there are still car accidents, heart disease, natural disasters, school shootings, chainsaw killers, child molesters, asteroids, collapsing bridges, Italians, second-hand smoke, Putin, Oprah, and Nickelback.
So what are you going to do? You can eat healthy, quit smoking, draw the shades, check the locks, get a gun, turn on the alarm, buy a mean dog, and travel everywhere in a bulletproof Popemobile, but someday, you’re going to be as dead as anyone else.
What are your priorities? What do you want from your life, because you can hide in your basement until the end of time worrying about the problems that you’ll never fix, or you can accept that life is dangerous and choose to live yours anyway. The world is chock-full of foul people who do terrible things, and there’s no reason we should ignore that. But if we can’t even push these things into the background every once in awhile, how are we supposed to cope?
So I say don’t spend your life worrying about all the things that can kill you, but don’t expect any of those things to go away either. If you’re scared, try to be brave and when the shit hits the fan and you can’t even do that anymore, at least try to hold steady. It’s been seven years now. How about we stop letting fear run our lives?