That giggling you hear is terrorists watching our public discourse stampede us off a cliff like so many frightened sheep.
Given our paranoid past, we should know better after banning Chinese in the 1800s and rounding up Reds in 1919, drinkers in the ’20s, wanderers in the ’30s and citizens of Japanese descent in the ’40s.
In the ’50s we hunted communists under our beds while suspecting the folks next door. In the ’60s Abbie Hoffman’s threat to levitate the Pentagon spun J. Edgar’s FBI knickers into a twist. Popular belief in the ’70s, at least in my circle, held disco would trigger the apocalypse.
By the ’80s, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Big Brother spied on us. In the ’90s we’d retreat to caves after Y2K fried computers and the electric grid. For the ’00s we bought into weapons of mass destruction. Along the way doomsayers ranted about saggy-pants guys, tattooed gals, Teletubbies, sex ed and old folks refusing to get out of the way.
So now paranoia slips into a dark place where allegedly sober people discard our positive history, Constitution, compassion and bravery, you know, those things that actually make us exceptional.
Corral and expel 11 million Mexicans? No sweat, but why stop there? How ’bout a few million Muslims? Then let’s go after the Wiccans (uh, oh, pentagrams), the Sikhs (have you seen those swords?), the Russian Orthodox (they all have Putin posters, right?) and the Presbyterians (because I got sick from a church potluck).
And don’t forget those Catholics, Irish or not. True patriotic white folk fretted if we let them in we’d be ruled from Rome (the Vatican, actually, but never mind). Then Catholicism came out against Communism leaving those true patriots deeply conflicted about Mexican-Americans.
I’d mention rounding up Jews, but someone tried that already, which shows where this can go.
Truth is, fear sells and is trending upward. Meanwhile the market slides for peace, love, dialog and yearning to be free.
Want to sell weapons? Spread fear of government. Pills? Fear limp manhood. Overpriced neckties? Fear by radio or stump speech. Religion? Fear false (meaning someone else’s) prophets.
Crave power? Peddle fear of neighbors, of people who don’t look, dress or pray like you and of the present, the future and even the past (ghosts and zombies, you know).
The only tough sell is fear of fear.