By "Super Macho Man" Jon Ponder
October 30, 2007 | The Pensito Review
The Republican Party's macho bluster and apparently endless appetite for war makes it seem counter-intuitive to think of them as cowards. And yet, seven years into the Bush regime, it is clear that the GOP has become dependent on fear to keep itself in power — and to support this addiction the party leadership has converted its rank and file members into America's first generation of bona fide yellow-bellied cowards.
After the GOP took over the government in 2000 and ran all three branches for six years, the truth about the conservative movement was finally revealed. After years of unctuous claims that they were for family values and lower spending and against corruption, Republicans demonstrated that the exact opposite is true. They were caught engaging in a wide range of sleazy activities, both personal and financial, and Bush and the GOP Congress ran the Treasury into the ground, racking up more debt than all the presidents since Washington, combined. Now, with that record fresh in voters' minds, all they have left to run on is the politics of fear.
Nearly every day, a subtle or not-so-subtle message of fear — about terrorists, Moslems, Iran, whatever works — is transmitted from the bully pulpit of the White House press room podium out to the public via the seemingly unwitting mainstream media, Fox News and rightwing talk radio. The government's fear propaganda is mostly just noise in the background to normal people, but rank and file conservatives gobble it up like ravenous dogs.
9/11 Did Not "Change Everything"
The Republican culture of fear was born out of the 9/11 attacks — which we are told "changed everything" because they were an "attack on America." But when the World Trade Center was bombed in February 1993 by rightwing Islamic terrorists very like the ones who would take the towers down eight years years later, no one suggested that our response to this "attack on America" should be invading and occupying Iraq.
The Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta July 1996 was an "attack on America" — albeit by an American rightwing Christian fundamentalist terrorist. But no one suggested that we should eavesdrop on Americans and torture prisoners as a result.
The Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, this time by another group of homegrown rightwing terrorists, was certainly an "attack on America" — in particular on a federal building and specifically targeting agents of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. No one suggested shredding the Constitution as a result.
For most of the century after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, a rightwing, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant terrorist group, attacked and killed Americans with guns, bombs and nooses. But during the first nine decades or so of this unrelenting reign of terror, hardly anyone seemed to mind very much, except of course for those who were the targets of the hatred and violence.
Around the globe, millions of people endure terror attacks without cowering under their beds. The Israelis have lived with terrorism since at least the 1970s — as have the Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis and others in the Middle East. The British stood stalwart against attacks by Irish separatists for generations. In just the past decade, terrorists have attacked in Colombia, Russia, China, Egypt, Mexico, Cuba, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Pakistan, Latvia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chechnya, Spain, Finland and on and on.
Only in the Bush era has it become acceptable for Americans to cower in fear at the same threat that others in the world face with courage or at least equanimity. Among democracies, only does the United States government deliberately encourage and inflame cowardice among its citizens.
The Soviets' A-Bombs - Now That Was Scary
Up until about a decade and a half ago, Americans bravely shouldered on every day in the shadow of a much greater national threat than Islamic terrorists will ever pose. Here's how Gen. Wesley Clark described it on Bill Maher's HBO show last Friday:
This nation lived for 40 years under the threat of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Six thousand nuclear warheads [aimed at] every American city — would have destroyed … life in America.
Osama bin Ladin and these people — they're crazy and they're nuts. Maybe they want to kill Americans but they are not an existential threat to America. And they are no reason for Americans to give up their freedom and their liberty.
Other than fear so intense it has shut down rational thought — which can be described as cowardice — what could explain the Republicans' willingness to be duped by Bush's lies in the run-up to war: that Saddam, the secularist who was on Al Qaeda's kill list, was part of the 9/11 conspiracy; that he had nuclear capabilities; that he might load drones onto ships and launch them at the U.S. off the Atlantic coast?
Other than having their brains dulled by terror, what could cause so many Americans to take at face value Bush's facile construct that "we have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here?" It should be abundantly obvious that nothing about our being in Iraq prevents terrorists from coming here. They have maps. They can get plane tickets. They can cross the border on foot. And they can do this while American occupation forces are strapped down in Iraq, dodging bullets in a sectarian civil war between opposing followers of Muslim leaders who died 14 centuries ago.
The whole thing would be laughable if the price in American blood and treasure was not so steep.
Normal People Put Their Fears in Perspective
Those of us who live in areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, blizzards and floods have to learn to cope with fear. Our mantra, in so many words, is "be prepared and hope for the best."
Most of us don't consider this rationalization of risk as "bravery" — and, to be sure, our day-to-day moxie is nothing compared to the courage required of troops facing IEDs and insurgents' bombs in Iraq or cops dodging bullets in American streets.
But, really, our sort of courage is no harder to come by than the courage it took to get up every day and go about life with the knowledge that this could be the day the Soviets will bomb us into oblivion.
This mildest form of bravery — the ability to put exposure to risk in perspective and go about life in peace and contentment — is what every American, even Republicans, must learn to muster if, gods forbid, terrorism continues to be a part of life in the States.
Unfortunately, because of the policies and actions of George W. Bush — enabled and supported by his fear-addicted supporters — the likelihood that terrorism will remain a fact of life in America is greater now than it would have been if Bush had not been president on September 11, 2001.