One of the most deeply ingrained and cherished parts of the American mythos is that of the rugged individual with his feet firmly rooted in commonsense and his vision forever cast towards an optimistic future. It is a very nice idea and at one time, I actually believe it was true to a great extent. However, things have changed in this country in the last twenty to thirty years making that concept at best outdated and more than likely a desperate delusion. I really have no intention to purposely upset anyone’s mental apple cart but America is no longer a nation that embraces the future but one that cowers in fears both real and imaged.
If you want examples the very best I can immediately point to was any of the candidates who were seeking the Republican party’s nomination for president of the United States. Listening to the debates at the beginning of current campaign these individuals seeking the highest office in the land writhed in an orgy of fears to a willing audience that screamed in orgasmic glee each time they were mentioned. These fearmongers worried over terroristic boogiemen hiding under the beds of innocent and God-fearing Americans; the current president being an evil villain with nefarious plans to subvert all that is good and holy; to female contraception being some sort of satanic plan. I would be delinquent if I did not mention other republican–inspired fears over the gay agenda to convert the nation one way or the other, public school teachers being both totally incompetent but somehow a dangerous threat to the belief in “American Exceptionalism” , and the international socialist conspiracy over global warming.
All of that dovetails nicely with the Republican, and unfortunately many Democrats, need to bomb the living Hell out of every place on the planet that refuses to play by rules set by our corporate dominated government. Instead of dealing with other nations respectfully its easier to cast them as sinister threats to our precious freedom to buy crap we do not need with credit cards insuring a growing American serfdom.
To be fair and balanced Republicans are not the only group wallowing in the irrational. You cannot go into a bookstore without seeing a new bestseller proclaiming we face some terrible threat to human civilization. Books predicting asteroid impacts to mega-natural disasters are a big favorite along with the latest in apocalyptic Christian fiction where everyone not towing the evangelical line are ground into a bloody pulp by a vengeful, Rambo-like Jesus. Other non-political anxiety-inducing fears include things like pandemics, environmental collapse, massive solar flares destroying all our neat electronic gadgets, and global financial breakdowns to name a very few. Now many of what I listed are real concerns that need to be looked at rationally and met with intelligence and cooperation. The problem is that intelligence and cooperation are in short supply these days. Many people tend to ignore inconvenient truths or want things totally their way with any disagreement seen as a crime.
The most bizarre forms of societal fears come from ancient prophecies. There was a recent time on the History Channel when every other show was about some ancient figure who predicted all our troubles centuries ago. Nostradamus is by far the favorite with thousand of people in the United States pouring over every vague passage this medieval French dude wrote about. Supposedly he foretold hundreds of events from his temporal vantage point centuries ago but we never realize this until well after the fact making him a huge buzzkill. Other secular prophets include some guy named Edgar Casey and even Leonardo Da Vinci who when he was not being a brilliant scientist and artist was, according to some, delving into the occult leaving semi-secret hints of the future for people in our age with way too much time on their hands to discover.
Recently the Mayans were leading the pack with their apparent prediction that there would be no tomorrow after December 21, 2012. All sorts of self-proclaimed experts have written books and appeared on television warming the world about how the supernaturally accurate Mayan calendar was reason enough to show that the priests and shaman in charge of keeping it knew what they were doing. Well now, there is a small problem with that supposition that the world is facing a final deadline this coming December. A recent discover suggests the whole thing might be a bit overblown.