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Another View: Defusing a Nation's Paranoia

Frank J. Batavick | Columnist



Images-2Fear is a wondrous instinct. Those of us lucky enough to be walking this good earth can thank our genes, for it was our ancestors’ fear of saber tooth tigers and the like that ensured we’d be here today. But as with anything, too much fear can be crippling, warping our view of the world and constraining us from making rational decisions. Today, a certain debilitating strain of fear stalks both this country and this county, and we need to take precautions against it, lest it paralyze us as a people.

Just after the last presidential election, petitions were being prepared first in the South and then in all fifty states to secede from the United States. In Texas, more than 125,000 people have signed an online petition to secede and create an independent government. Consider the irony that this happened during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, fought to preserve the Union and the bloodiest conflict in American history. Have we learned nothing from those “honored dead” and about what happens to a “house divided against itself”? What are these people so afraid of to the point of paranoia? Does it come down to the complexion of the man who just got re-elected? If so, then the ghosts of the Civil War still haunt us.

This irrational fear also drives the national debate on gun control. Who is the survivalist wing of the NRA arming itself against and why? When experts tell us that a shotgun is much more effective in protecting us against home invasion, what is the real purpose of a military assault weapon? The answer is quite striking. The survivalists and their ilk are not preparing to fight al-Qaeda or ISIS but the U.S. Army, which they believe will be used to enforce some imaginary and dictatorial White House policies, like the confiscation of weapons. Just think of it. Eight years ago we festooned our cars with magnets calling on everyone to “Support the Troops.” Now we live in a society where some among us are preparing to kill these same troops who have been defending our country. Where is the outrage?

There are many fearful voices abroad in the land. We are told that multiculturalism threatens country, culture, and Constitution, that our liberties are being trampled, that we are being controlled and manipulated, and that Islam poses a threat to our very survival. I have a question for such voices. Where were you in 2001 when the Patriot Act was passed? Its ordained rights allow the FBI access to our telephone, e-mail, library and financial records without a court order, and to search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge. This represents a greater loss of liberty than having to buy medical insurance, improve school standards, or register a gun. Honest, the black helicopters don’t go for a test spin every time a progressive idea is proposed by the President. And if you are so fearful of liberties being trampled, let’s hear you speak out against drone strikes in which two American citizens have been executed without benefit of due process, courts, or a trial.

Another disconnect for me regards the Tea Party movement, launched immediately after the election of our first black President. Supposedly, the Tea Party is inspired by the Revolutionary War’s “no taxation without representation” slogan, yet they haven’t lifted a finger to win the vote for the District of Columbia whose roughly 600,000 citizens pay federal taxes yet have no real representation in Congress. Despite the scurrilous and graphic signs at many of its rallies, the Tea Party claims not to be racist, but might the minority population of the District be a factor in the Party’s inaction on this issue? Going to bat for D.C. would be a good way to disprove this notion.

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I have a question for all those who have signed secession petitions, joined militias, and take every occasion to rail against the threats of this particular President and government. How can you put your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance to the United States when there’s such a strong stench of sedition in your actions? Here’s a friendly tip that bridges 80 years of cultural advice. “Just chill out, brothers. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Frank Batavick is a graduate of Gloucester Catholic (‘63) and La Salle University ('67) with over 40 years of experience as a television writer/producer/director for public TV and media companies in IN and NJ.  He has also served as adjunct faculty and visiting professor in Communications at colleges and universities in NY and MD. Frank now lives in MD with his wife Dori (GCHS, ‘63), where he is the vice chair of the Historical Society of Carroll County’s board of trustees, editor of the Carroll History Journal, and a weekly columnist and occasional feature writer for the Carroll County Times.