I remember reading this article on the day it came out. I was reading it at the Atlanta Bread Company, which was just a short walk away from where my job was at the time. At that point, I was, like so many Americans, angry as hell. The article came closer, and still does, to capturing why things are, politically, the way they are in this country, than any I have read before or since.
And so, without further adieu….
Published on Monday, November 15, 2004 by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution
Greatest Fear Isn’t Terrorists, It’s Change
by Jay Bookman
Democrats and Republicans don’t agree about a lot, but they do agree that fear played a major role in the 2004 election. Millions of voters saw in President Bush what they did not see in John Kerry, the type of strong, decisive leader who would protect them and their families from a threatening outside world and would do so without asking the United Nations for permission.
But sifting through the exit polls and election results . . . it’s a funny thing. The voters least likely to be terror targets � those in rural areas, small towns and the less populated states � tended to be most frightened by the prospect of a terror attack. Conversely, voters in major metro areas that would be logical targets of terror, including New York and New Jersey, were least likely to be frightened by it.
That oddity mirrors something I first noticed back in the mid-’90s, at a time when crime, not terror, was the hot political issue. In interviews with candidates and voters, the fear of random, unpredictable crime seemed most intense in places you wouldn’t logically expect, such as suburbs far from the city center where people lived in gated, guarded communities surrounded by people much like themselves and where rates of violent crime were absurdly low.
Those people were scared, but it was hard to believe that crime was the real reason. It seemed more likely that they were scared by the cultural and economic changes going on around them, by TV shows that were penetrating the walls of their gated neighborhoods depicting a world they did not recognize, by the sense that the country they had known growing up was being robbed from them, replaced by something foreign and threatening. But unable to put a name to their unease, they attributed it to crime.
I think the same may be true today with terror, a theory that’s bolstered by something else in the exit polling and other post-election data. Apparently, many voters supported Bush despite misgivings about his policies because they were reassured by his character and faith and believed that he shared their traditional values. They saw him as an ally against the things they feared the most, while Kerry, with his foreign-born wife and Boston accent, in many ways epitomized those fears.
That fear � that sense of being under assault in your own country � is a powerful thing. And it no doubt grows every time people see a TV commercial talk of four-hour erections, every time they go to the ATM machine and are asked whether they want to conduct business in Spanish or English, every time a business announces mass layoffs and a tax-subsidized move overseas.
However, the root cause of those changes is not government or even the cultural elite. It’s just business, chasing a dollar with little or no attention to what its impact will be. The social, cultural, legal and regulatory controls that once limited what was acceptable in selling a product or running a company are largely gone now, and the result is a consumer society that worships nothing so much as the bottom line.
The biggest threat to traditional values today is greed.
So even though conservative politicians may depict themselves as culture warriors, they will do nothing to stop that pharmaceutical company from running erection commercials, because you don’t interfere when there’s money to be made. And while illegal immigration stirs fears among millions, no effective action will be taken because businesses find those immigrants a cheap and docile source of labor. (DRL: And, may I add, while terrorism stirs fears among tens of millions, no one – Democrat, Republican, Senator, Congressman, President, even the President of September 11th himself, Rudy Guiliani – will truly do anything about it – because there’s too much money to be made in places like Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Too much oil to refine. Too much selfishness among Americans – particularly types like the College Republicans (CRs)who are always screaming for other people to die for the satisfaction of the CRs ideological wet dreams – to volunteer for the Armed Forces. And, yes – greed even dictates the motives of terrorist masterminds themselves – the ones like bin Laden and Arafat who send others to get blown up and who profit, through acquisition of that other ultimate manifestation of greed, power. The Bush Administration knows that greed is what drives the universe just as “evil knows evil,” to quote from a bad movie adaptation of a bad science fiction television show. The deployment of greed causes millions to live in fear. And bombing every nation on Earth out of existence will not change that fact, because if only the U.S. were left, one group – the more powerful one – the greedier one – will dominate the weak, until slowly but surely, we are all wiped out. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened yet. But then, humans have only been on the planet, which is comprised of a young galaxy, for a very short time. Give it another couple of thousand years).
And of course, the sleaziest of the major TV networks, the outlet whose shows are most likely to disparage institutions such as marriage and traditional moral values, is Fox Broadcasting. The latest movie drawing the ire of religious and cultural conservatives is “Kinsey,” a lurid biography of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, likewise distributed by Fox Searchlight. (DRL: the movie was not lurid, but “conservative” hypocrites should have been incensed that Fox, whose film argued that people should not be forced to wear groin carriages by their parents so that these people won’t masturbate, put such “filth” on the air. This is why I get so incensed when I hear the phrase “liberal media.” So what if the media is liberal? It is owned, ultimately, by networks, which, if they are not conservative themselves, are owned by people who are experts at the greed game, people who know that as long as the masses can be fed enough hate bread and given enough “hate the liberals” circus propaganda, these people will never catch on to who is really screwing them).
And where will those deeply offended people turn for comfort, for reassurance that they are not alone in their dismay at all this cultural decadence?
They’ll punch the clicker to Fox News, so Rupert Murdoch’s employees (who, ironically, can only utter the words that come out of their mouths because true liberals – small l – believe that the government should not forbid them to do so) can tell them that it’s all the liberals’ fault.
The enemy is not the terrorists. “Terrorist” is just the latest label for the particular global menace people get hot and bothered about. Greed is the real enemy, and, as someone once said, “Have you ever tried to kill an idea? It has no weapon to seize, no body to destroy.”