An’ the gobble-uns ‘at gits you, ef you don’t watch out – Little Orphant Annie By JW Riley
When I was in grade school, we occasionally had drills for what we were to do in case of a nuclear attack. We crawled under our desks and the girls were supposed to pull our skirts over our heads. The boys were instructed to shield their faces from flying glass or radiation with their arms. In addition to the regular scheduled drills for when the commies came to get us, we had impromptu drills when a Russian plane would get too close to Alaska and the fighter jets would scramble out of McCord AFB. It would sound like they were breaking the sound barrier right over our heads. We never knew if we’d just been nuked or it was just sonic booms until one bright kid would realize that we hadn’t been vaporized yet and call the all clear. “I can hear jet engines. It was a sonic boom.” Since most of my teachers had gone to school on the GI bill after serving in WWII or Korea, we’d reassure the teacher that he could come out from under his desk and no windows had been broken. One teacher took a fair amount of coaxing. Most of the kids lived with fathers with PTSD, so we understood the situation.
Once out of elementary school, we were given great works of literature to read like On The Beach, a not-so-cheerful tale about the ending of human life after a nuclear holocaust. We were systematically trained to prepare for nuclear war. What really happened was they sent most of my male classmates off to fight a war in Vietnam to stop the commies. We must fear communism. Many of my classmates did fear communism. Maybe my mother read me too many of James W. Riley’s poems. I figured out at an early age that while a scary story or poem might be fun I really didn’t like being afraid. I also figured out that you couldn’t kill an idea with a gun.
So, communism worked to keep enough people afraid until the Soviet Union collapsed. For a few brief moments the population looked out, the sky was blue and we hadn’t been vaporized. All we had left to be afraid of were crack heads and gangs. Remember when we were supposed to be afraid of gangs? Yeah. I remember that.
So, after almost a decade of not much to be afraid of the military industrial complex must have gotten tired of losing money. So we needed something to be afraid of again. This is the point at which we learned to be afraid of terrorists. Being afraid of terrorists is better than being afraid of commies because terrorists can lurk in the park, the grocery store, anywhere. Our military industrial complex has gotten a lot of money out of the fear of terrorism. They’ve gotten trillions and trillions of dollars out of a fear of terrorism. Never mind that you can’t kill an idea with a gun and building universities and cultural centers would be a better deterrent to terrorism. We must kill the people who frighten us.
Fear creates a very effective machine for transferring money from the pockets of the many to the offshore bank accounts of the few. The problem is that only the military industrial complex was making the money. We needed to spread the fear around a bit to benefit more special interests. Somebody decided we needed to fear diseases. Yeah diseases. Like communism and terrorism, nobody does anything really effective to fight the diseases, but the news media ramps up the fear factor and pharmacy companies can get more dollars for research. Chemical companies can get more dollars to kill mosquitoes, while it becomes unclear whether the chemicals are worse than the disease and the simple effective methods for controlling the disease are ignored.
I’m not certain why we are supposed to fear regulation of the banking industry. That one doesn’t make sense, but fear regulation we must. I know people who are afraid of going to hell if they talk to me because I don’t fear the right things. Yup, some people are making money off of religious fear. We are supposed to fear our own government. Um, maybe we should do something about the money issues behind our government instead of just being afraid.
Fear has become so popular that we can now fear people of different ethnic background. What ever happened to the future of Star Trek where we learned to celebrate differences? As we figuratively dive under our desks and pull our skirts over our heads, do we ever ask how reasonable our fears are? Do we ever ask if there is a simple solution to any real problems facing our country?
When we live in fear of vague threats, our neighbors, or disease, we are not free. The oligarchs who own our media and profit from our fears may have constructed the prison of fear. The secret is we don’t have to enter. Turn your back on the fear mongers. Turn off the radio. Turn off the TV. Go outside. Visit a park. Set yourself free. Nothing bad will happen if you do, and all sorts of wonderful things will. The gobble’uns won’t get you.