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Fear and Loathing in America: It Keeps Getting Weirder

The US has had six acts of terrorism that can be traced to radical Muslims since 9/11 with a total death toll of 35. In that same time period there were over 360 terrorist attacks in other countries that took the lives of many thousands. Details can be found here.

Tiny Israel, with its 8 million residents in an area a bit smaller than New Jersey, has had some 70 such attacks and suffered over 450 deaths in the same time period. The recent Paris attacks were worse and deadlier than San Bernardino but France, rather than calling for barring all Muslims from immigrating, announced it would continue to accept Syrian refugees.

Other countries where terrorism is rife manage to continue to function without bursts of paranoia; their residents manage to live without constant pummeling by calls for genocide, programs to ban immigration and messages stoking fear and despair.

In the wake of Paris and San Bernardino, Obama called for calm and tried putting these events, terrible as they were, in perspective. He might as well have been trying to beat back the tide with a canoe paddle. The Republicans were in full-bore fear, dismay, dread, panic mode, each of them trying to find the line that would truly evacuate the bowels of Americans.

Rubio started simply by saying that Americans are “really scared” then, perhaps recognizing that simply speaking truth wouldn’t work, went for the warning that ISIS “is the most sophisticated terror group that has ever threatened the world or the United States.”  

Kasich proclaimed that “our way of life is at stake.”

Christie announced that, while most haven’t noticed, “World War III had begun.”

Jeb! revealed to any doubting soul that ISIS is “organizing to destroy Western Civilization.”

Carson noted that “our very existence” is at stake.

Trump called for the need to battle “radical Islamic terrorism” while “building up our military… our strength.”

Graham warned that terrorists “are trying to come here to kill us all.”

Of course, these kinds of apocalyptic ravings are nothing new. We have long had a peculiar fondness for suspicion, a proneness to see plots and schemes, raging madmen and stealthy killers and thugs around every corner and behind every bush. Over the decades we’ve worked ourselves into a lather over the Illuminati, the Masons, the New World Order, the League of Nations, United Nations, Black Helicopters, Communists, Papists and recently, in the Jade Helm paranoiac spasm, our own US Army.

As historian Richard Hofstadter noted back in 1954 this knee-jerk tendency contains a weird disconnect. These fake conservatives, from the pathetic Fiorina to the worrisome Trump, march to the drum of America’s greatness, its over-arching power, resilient peoples and unbeatable military yet they quiver at the power of these enemies of America. Rather than calmly stating that, while things can and likely will get dicey from time to time, we’re a strong and effective people with the leaders and knowledge to handle the situation, they rant about losing everything, warn of the destruction of civilization, the end of our way of life.

It makes you wonder. Do they realize the paradox? See how bizarre it is to tout the US as the greatest, most powerful country yet claim that its demise is in sight and will be brought about by a tiny bunch of fanatics? Do they know that you’re more likely to be killed by falling furniture than a terrorist, that a bolt of lightning is four times more likely to take you out than a terrorist?

I suspect they haven’t even thought this through. They have no intentions of thinking it (any other issue for that matter) through because thinking is the last thing they want anyone to do. They want to instill fear and loathing of the other, the stranger, the alien. And they know who the real stranger is for each and every one of the GOP candidates for president has put the blame for these threats to America squarely on the shoulders of The Black Dude. It is, as it always is with them, Obama’s fault.

It just keeps getting weirder.

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