Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Replace The Politics Of Fear With Hope

Ira Chernus, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, wrote an excellent article at TomPaine about fear and loathing against President Bush. As he correctly asserts, this kind of tactic advances the progressive cause greatly, but only so far. This small excerpt hardly does it justice, but certainly conveys his argument:
Who can deny it? It's an almost physical pleasure to watch George W. Bush's fall from grace. And it's so easy. All you have to do is say, "Bush has botched the war on terrorism. Bush is not keeping us safe from terrorists - or from the terrors of nature." You've already got over half the country with you, and more are jumping on board the anti-Bush train every day. But before we settle in to ride that train to political glory, we ought to consider whether it can really take us to a better future.
. . .

Fear does move public opinion. That's a lesson the anti-Bush forces have learned well. Their nemesis in the White House has turned out, in this way, to be their master teacher. They are using fear most effectively to bring down a presidency built on fear. It's a delicious irony.

It's also a blessing, at least in the short run. A weakened presidency suffers on every front. The privatization of social security is moribund and will soon be pronounced dead on Capitol Hill. Chief Justice Roberts will be bad, but he may not be the Scalia clone that Bush promised his right-wing base. And when was the last time you heard the words "compassionate conservatism"? Though there is plenty to worry about under a weak Bush, it would have been far worse under a strong Bush.

But what price will we pay for this blessing in the long run, if we purchase it with the currency of mounting public fear?

The urge to be safe, to keep fear at bay, is certainly natural and understandable. But after more than half a century in a state of heightened national insecurity, Americans have largely forgotten the other side of the human coin: the urge to be daring, to take chances that can lead to positive change. Insecurity is now in the national bloodstream. That's why anti-Bush campaigns that evoke fear can be so successful. To be successful in the longer term, though, we have to constrict that sense of insecurity, to return it to the more modest place where it belongs, until actual security comes into sight.
. . .

Many demand that our tax dollars be used to fund services and repair damage all over the world. After all, that's actually the best way to begin to protect ourselves from danger. But even that won't work if we do it simply because we are scared. We'll never be safe if we make safety our ultimate goal. We'll be safe only if we let safety be a by-product of a society working together to improve life for everyone.

The best way to be secure is to imagine a genuine politics of hope. Imagine. Unfortunately, when John Lennon said, "It's easy if you try," he was quite wrong. After six decades of our national insecurity state, it's incredibly hard. But it's an effort that anti-Bush forces ought to make. The alternative is, however inadvertently, to reinforce the politics of fear that Bush and his kind thrive on. The belief that danger is everywhere - —that we must have leaders whose great task is to keep us safe -is the one great danger we really do need to protect ourselves against.
Fear, though effective in short-term motivation, can create a demobilizing cycle of phobia and anger. This will not change things, but only keep them as they are. Democrat or Republican alike should appreciate a political philosophy based on hope and change will engender more support than the divisive tactics so far. Hope alone can save us all from the precipice of tyranny.

I only hope America wakes up from this nightmare soon enough to realize that.

2 Comments:

At 1:44 PM GMT-5, Blogger Toby said...

Hi! Interesting post and article. A quote by Ben Franklin comes to mind... "When people give up essential liberties for temporary safety they deserve neither liberty nor safety." And that unfortunately is exactly what you get. No liberty, no safety. But how do you reverse the effects of fear politics? What was given away in a day can take years to get back...

 

At 8:09 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dream on.

 

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