Who’s afraid of whom?
Everyone is afraid of something. What we are afraid of – or not afraid of – reveals a lot about us. Often we displace our fear. We ignore what we really fear – it’s just too upsetting. Instead, we displace the fear onto something that is less frightening, and often more politically correct.
Los Angeles realtors had a custom of placing small American flags on people’s lawns with a note advertising their services. Often the flags fell onto the ground, so I picked them up and saved them. Besides, flags should not be used for advertising.
The Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece in which the author complained that a flag had been left on her lawn. She objected not because the flag was used for a commercial purpose, or because it might fall on the ground. No, her complaint is made clear by the title of her article:
You will fly the flag, and you will like it. Patriotism is to be found in the heart, not the hand that takes away liberty.
She was afraid that somehow her liberty was being taken away because somebody placed a small American flag on her lawn. There are any number of frightening things – auto accidents, cancer, carjacking, job loss, divorce, or what have you. What we select to be afraid of depends as much on us as on external circumstances.
The author of the article might well have been afraid of another terrorist atrocity. Nerve gas, biological warfare, nuclear weapons, beheadings, or being burned alive would frighten anyone with an IQ above that of broccoli.
But what elicited her fear was a small American flag. Somehow it was taking away her freedom. How? Somehow she felt pressure to leave it on her lawn, because similar flags were on her neighbors’ lawns. So what?
Perhaps we are trying so hard not to produce super-patriots that we risk producing no patriots at all. But it is one thing not to display your own flag – that’s your choice. It is quite another to express fear when somebody else displays a flag.
Super-patriotism and chauvinism are dangerous. We saw the danger in Nazism, and we see it now in violent Islamism. But if one extreme is bad, this does not mean that the opposite extreme is good. Too much water can cause drowning, but lack of water can also be fatal. Most people understand this.
Others, however, have an odd sort of visual defect. They exaggerate the danger on one side to the point of hysteria, but see no danger at all on the other side.
Yes, chauvinism is dangerous. But what if our enemies remain fanatically certain that their nation and their religion are the best, while we doubt our religion and scorn our homeland? Inevitably, our enemies will grow stronger, while we become weak.
● Raging chauvinists murder thousands, while we are upset by a small flag. Is that the way to ensure the survival of freedom?
● Homicidal fanatics crash airliners into office towers, while we are distressed by the mere mention of God at a graduation. Is that the way to guarantee the continuation of tolerance?
● Violent sociopaths behead journalists, burn alive prisoners of war, and take prepubescent girls as “wives” or sex slaves (if there is any difference), while we fret about conservative talk radio. Is this the way to maintain our security?
Recently Ami Horowitz tried an experiment on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. First he waved an ISIS flag, loudly proclaiming the virtues of ISIS and the misdeeds of America. This evoked comments of “Good luck” and “Right on,” but not one negative remark. Next he waved an Israeli flag, proclaiming that Israel had a right to exist and that Hamas is a terrorist organization. This evoked comments such as “F**k Israel” and “All Israelis are killers,” but not one positive remark. No one can deny the leftist bias on American campuses.
Over-emphasis of danger on one side inevitably leads to ignoring danger on the other. Even the most timid person isn’t afraid of everything. Even the most paranoid person doesn’t have the energy to be on “red alert” all the time. We are selective in what we fear.
What about those who express fear of a small flag, but remained stony silence when Randy Weaver’s dog, son, and wife were shot to death (in that order) by federal agents. Somehow this didn’t evoke fear of a too-powerful government.
Those who condoned the shooting of an American woman with a baby in her arms are in a poor position to condemn the alleged mistreatment of aliens who planned terrorist acts of mass murder.
What about those who throw a fit when “God bless America” is said in a school, but who were coldly indifferent when 84 people – including 26 children who were by definition innocent hostages – were gassed and burned to death at Waco? Somehow this wasn’t “the hand that takes away liberty.”
Those who ignored the rights of an unpopular religious group are in a poor position to claim to be advocates of the rights of Muslims, or atheists, or anyone.
What about those who agitate against the traditional Christmas programs at schools, though attendance is voluntary, but who see nothing wrong with forcing public-school students to read the Quran?
Those who exclude the great majority of Americans who identify themselves as Christians are in a poor position to claim that they are “inclusive.”
What about those who forced the removal of “So help me God” from the oath for Honolulu police officers, but who complain bitterly about alleged police misconduct?
Those who erase the idea of a Higher Authority are in a poor position to complain when those in power owe their only allegiance to the state.
What about those who insist on “zero tolerance” for bullies in schools, but who force everyone else to conform to their desires in regard to flags, graduation speeches, Christmas programs, and expression of opinions at universities?
Those who act as bullies are in a poor position to condemn bullying.
What about those who whine incessantly about mistreatment of suspected terrorists, but who applauded when black-masked thugs pointed submachine guns at innocent civilians and forcibly returned a small child to Castro’s socialist “paradise”?
Those who express more sympathy for suspected terrorists than for a terrified child are in a poor position to claim credit for being compassionate.
What about those who loudly complain about the “mistreatment” of Al‑Qaeda detainees, and refer to their prison at Guantanamo as a “concentration camp”? These fools are unable to distinguish a prison from a death camp, or prisoners of war from minorities on their way to gas chambers.
Those who cannot make such simple moral distinctions are in a poor position to claim the moral high ground.
We are all afraid of something, but what we’re afraid of says a lot about us.
Some people are afraid of violence. They can empathize with the fisherman who rescued Elian Gonzalez from the sea, only to have the child snatched from his arms at the point of submachine guns that fire at the rate of ten rounds per second. They can empathize with Randy Weaver and the relatives of those who died at Waco.
Some people are afraid of heights. They can empathize with those who were forced by advancing flames to jump out of the 110-story World Trade towers. They can try to imagine what went through the jumpers’ minds in the ten seconds it took them to fall, before they hit the ground at 120 miles per hour.
Some people are afraid of flying. They can empathize with the airline passengers who saw cabin attendants’ throats slit, then wondered why the planes were descending.
Most people are afraid of war. They can empathize with our troops, who are risking their lives to end the war successfully, rather than with the terrorists, who started the war in the first place.
Almost everyone is afraid of nerve gas, lethal viruses, and nuclear bombs. Almost everyone can empathize with our military and intelligence personnel who are trying, despite stubborn opposition, to prevent such attacks.
But some people are afraid of small American flags. They are uncomfortable if everyone else on the block displays a flag, but they don’t. So they want everyone else to remove the flags to make them comfortable. They are narcissists. They have difficulty empathizing with anyone.
And some people are more afraid of conservatives than of Al Qaeda and ISIS. They want to impose their irrational fears on us. They empathize with our enemies.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.