Thomas Paine:

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Terror Over Terrorism: Meeting the Enemy

Awhile back, I called my California State representative’s office. A staffer answered the phone, of course. At one point in our conversation, I told him I was far more fearful of having a bridge collapse during my trip home on the freeway than of being killed in a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda. He responded with alarm: “You’re kidding!” he said.

Obviously, he was a Republican. But I wonder if his reaction had more to do with the shock of encountering a citizen who had not sufficiently ingested —to the point of being stuffed to the gills with fear about terrorist attacks— the daily diet of terror served up by the Bush Administration, than with his own fears about Al Qaeda. But maybe not.

Lots of us are worried about terrorism. It’s somehow incredibly easy for Bush and his criminal gang of thugs to inspire the fear of strange, unknown and exotic threats —easier and far more useful— than it is to get people to pay attention to ordinary reality and put things in perspective. My Republican staffer, for example, probably never thinks about the more common deadly threats in the U.S., such as death by auto accident —38,588 in 2006— or heart disease —652,486— or cancer —553,888— or accidents in general —112,012— or diabetes —73,138— and all the other ways of dying in this world, including pollution, which causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide. Instead, he probably drives to work in the fast lane at 80 m.p.h., slurping a super-sized Pepsi, then he stops at his local junk food provider for a cheeseburger and fries, then goes home after work and sprays Round-up on his driveway, never once considering how his own BRAIN threatens his existence far more seriously than Al Qaeda ever could. He should be saying, “I have met the enemy, and it is ME” (and the corporations that enable his bad habits, pollute his environment, and profit from his disease), but he won’t. It’s gotta be Al Qaeda.

Then we have the fear itself. Franklin Roosevelt was smarter than we thought, when he said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” It turns out that fear and all its locales and manifestations —negative projections, hopelessness, humiliation, the ills of poverty and job loss, lack of health care, low-status, feelings of rejection, etc.— correlates to all sorts of deadly encounters, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, infections, high blood pressure, and on and on. The culprit is apparently the physiological response to stress, something having to do with the “cortisol response,” which wreaks havoc with the immune system in ways I am unable to explain myself. (read Margaret Kemeny, UCSF, or Rbt. Sapolsky for the scientific explanation.)

Beyond what Bush Administration policies do to increase stress among citizens to the point of killing them by degrees, perhaps we can also conclude that Bush is killing an awful lot of us with terror over terrorism! (to say nothing of the horror of seeing and hearing him on T.V.)

...and then there’s Bush’s removal of tens of thousands of children from SCHIP; disinterest in poverty, denial of science, denial of global warming, deteriorating infrastructure, slashing of staff and budget for the EPA, etc., the Iraq war and occupation, torture-lust, hundreds of concentration camps inside the USA built to include potential U.S. “terrorists”... camps and I’m supposed to be more fearful of Arab nationals than I am of what my own nation —I refuse to call it Homeland, Hitler’s word— has done and is capable of doing?

And now it turns out our water is laced with pharmaceuticals of all kinds. Whew! What next? After awhile you tire of all the things in this world to worry about. I've been so outraged, it's gotta be affecting my health. I'd say it's time to step back, take time out from outrage, time out from terror and worry of every other kind. It's time to do some "guided imagery," time to take time out for meditation— close the eyes and take a little trip across a world at peace, a clean, healthy, happy world, where there's room for coexistence in peace, justice, and all good things and opportunities available to all. It's a beautiful place, a healing place. You might try it yourself.

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