The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Fred A Wilcox • 14 May 2005

Every semester in my Personal Essay class, students are asked to write about what they fear most. "Spiders," they say, "snakes, heights, clowns, bees, failure, growing old, not finding a soul mate, dying, losing a loved one. Writing about fear."

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, this assignment became less of an academic exercise and more of an existential adventure. Five graduates from our college died in the World Trade Center attacks, and many students know someone who barely escaped death on that terrible day. One young woman in my seminar on violence/nonviolence lost her father when the towers collapsed.

I spent September 11, 2001, frantically calling family and friends in New York City. Each time I dialed, there was dead space, and each time that happened my fear increased. My youngest daughter was in Jamaica, and my son had no reason to be near the towers, even though, it turns out, he did see the first plane explode into the side of one building. I was terrified, confused, angry, bitter, and more than a little crazy on that beautiful September day. I wanted someone to pay for the murder of 3,000 innocent people, even though I had no idea who might be responsible for this monumental crime. Slowly, my fear turned into rage, my rage into frustration, and the realization that I wanted revenge.

Now, four years later, my students and I are well aware that in the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, the Bush administration lied to us and to the world about who was responsible for these strikes. We are well aware that G.W. Bush and others played upon our fears to launch massive bombing attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq, and then to invade and occupy a country whose leaders had nothing to do with 9/11.We know that at least 100,000 Iraqi citizens have been killed during two yeas of warfare, that our government is building permanent military basis in Iraq, and that or military may be fighting in that country for many more years.

After students talk about their fears for some time, they want to know what I fear most. I explain that the United States of America is in the hands of religious fanatics and seriously disturbed megalomaniacs who are more than willing to destroy the world in order, they insist, to save it. If these people have their way, the United States will become a theocracy, ruled by and for ideologues who believe their words and actions represent the will of God.

To Irish people who visit friends and family in the United States, these statements might seem melodramatic and sensational. After all, the American people are hospitable, open, and genuinely friendly. We do not ask visitors to sign a waiver indicating their political or religious affiliations. Just hang with us in our backyards, drink beer, eat barbecue, and share a few good laughs. Not to worry. We do not ask visitors whether they believe that G.W. Bush was chosen by God to rule the world; if they think that angels penned United States Constitution; or whether they support the right of homosexuals to marry.

One day, visitors arriving at U.S. airports may be required to answer questions like these, but for now you can fly from Dublin to New York City without fear of being met by evangelical brigades determined to keep heretics out of the promised land.

Demagogues, gangsters, drug barons, Fascists, and religious fanatics understand that that we human beings are fearful creatures. It doesn't take much to keep us in line. A little or a lot of judiciously employed violence will do the trick. Just arrest a few people, humiliate them in front of their friends and families, and send them off to torture chambers. Promise rewards to those who turn in enemies of the state. Convince people they belong to a special, chosen, group and that everyone outside of this circle is the enemy. History demonstrates that fear is contagious. It crawls inside of the human heart, settles into our bones, and turns us into conformists and cowards.

Mr. Bush and friends, like their unscrupulous counterparts elsewhere, work hard at frightening and intimidating ordinary people. They understand that most human beings are kinder, less devious, and less power mad than the Stalins, Nixons, Blairs, Hitlers, and Bushes of this world. They know that most of us would never resort to the kind of criminal behavior and gratuitous cruelty that seems to guarantee public figures a prominent place in history books.

Day after day, week after week, Americans are warned that terrorists are plotting to attack our nation with chemical, biological, and possibly atomic weapons. The world is teeming with killers who are determined to fly airplanes into our commercial buildings, poison our food and water supplies, blow the tops off our nuclear power plants, and level every structure in Washington, D.C. We must be alert at all times for these terrorists. We must agree to give up our constitutional rights in order to defeat our enemies. And we must agree that when Big Brother attacks Iraq, Iran, Syria, or North Korea, this will be for our own good. After all, if we really wish to conquer our fear, then we must be willing to conquer the world.

For centuries, soldiers have marched off to slaughter infidels and enemies they've been taught to fear and hate. During the cold war, the Soviet Union and the United States came close to blowing the planet to pieces. Fear ruled and nearly destroyed the world. Now, powerful fanatics are hoping to coerce their fellow Americans, and people throughout the world, into submitting to their agenda. Like ideologues in Nazi Germany, Russia, China, and elsewhere, these so-called "neo-conservatives" are masters of terror.

They thrive on fear and they will rule by fear. How do I know this? Just hours after the first attacks on September 11, 2001, these neo-cons launched their campaign. Already, they've made enormous and very frightening progress.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

15 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

'The SDLP Hasn't Gone Away, You Know'
Tom Luby

Facing Fire
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Arrival
Tomas Gorman

Fred A. Wilcox

Support IRELAND and PALESTINE on June 4th
Mags Glennon

11 May 2005

Always the Centre Ground
Anthony McIntyre

Those Voting Outside the Box are the Overall Winners
Sean Mc Aughey

Voting Respect
John Devine

Stand Down or Deliver
Paul A Fitzsimmons

Testing Free Speech in America
M. Shahid Alam

Whither Disorder?
Colin Kalmbacher



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