Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Mastery of Fear

So it’s come to this. A network news commentator is openly advocating that dissenters be Tased (tortured).

On a segment of Fox & Friends the other night, host Brian Killmeade stated that members of the anti-war group Code Pink should be Tased and “beaten to a pulp.”

I have always known this could happen in America. But somehow I was never able to believe it actually would happen, that in my lifetime I would hear such words from the host of a network news program.

Such talk is not new, of course, but previously it was confined to the fringe. I remember hearing such talk when I was a boy living in the small towns of Texas, barbershop talk, rednecks loudly declaring that anyone who marched for civil rights or opposed the Vietnam War ought to have the shit beat out of ‘em by God and if that don’t shut ‘em up put a bullet in their damn heads (spit).

The barbershop philosophers, I called them. They would go on like that all day, talking about what ought to be done to people they didn’t agree with, people who were different—hippies, queers, niggers—and the solution was always violent. It was ignorant talk, backward and stupid and vile, and I always hated to hear it. But I cannot say it scared me particularly, because the barbershop philosophers were—well, they were morons, and what they had to say didn’t matter. They might as well have been gibbering baboons for all the influence their talk had on society.

No, the talk is not new. What is new is that the talk is no longer confined to the fringe, but has gone mainstream. When Fox news host Killmeade said what he said—when he put forth the idea that people should be physically harmed for exercising their right to dissent—he did not say it as crudely as the barbershop philosophers. He said it with better diction. But behind his better diction and his telegenic appearance was the same ugly, savage idea, and it was said not to an audience of a few fellow morons, but on national television to millions of morons. What once was said only in the barbershop is now part of the public discourse. And, for the first time, I am afraid.

When CNN commentator Glenn Beck recently equated Ron Paul supporters with terrorists, it was cause for concern. The government waterboards (tortures) so-called "terrorists," you know. And now that another commentator has openly advocated the Tasing (torturing) of people for exercising their First Amendment rights, we have double cause for concern.

Actually, we have cause for more than concern. We should be alarmed, and not without reason. It was only weeks ago that we saw video of a college student Tased (tortured) for asking a question at a public forum. There was outrage expressed at the time, calls for an investigation, calls for a reform of police procedure, and so forth, but nothing came of it. In fact, the affair ended with the police being cleared of any wrongdoing. As for the video that spread all the outrage, it has since become a propaganda tool of the neo-cons. It was playing in the background while Fox host Killmeade made his comments about Tasing (torturing) dissenters. Sound effects to drive home the point, the point being that we should be scared to speak out. Clearly, an intimidation campaign is underway. Beck, Killmeade, Bill O'Reilly, and other neo-con propagandists want us to be afraid to exercise our First Amendment rights. They want us to be afraid of the Taser (torture). They want us to cower in silence if we object to the loss of our freedoms and the heinous war in Iraq.

Well, congratulations, Mr. Killmeade, Mr. Beck, Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Murdoch. Congratulations, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and all the rest of you, those in front of the cameras and those behind the scenes. Congratulations to you all. You have succeeded in scaring us. You have given us a terrible fright. Mission accomplished. Give yourself a big pat on the back.

Now, consider this. Fear does not always result in silence, nor does it necessarily result in inaction. Fear, in fact, is a great motivator. The mother, for instance, who sees someone aim a gun at her child is afraid, yes. But she does not run away. She runs toward the child and takes the bullet herself, that her child might live.

Mark Twain wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Read those words carefully, my neo-con friends. You have made us afraid, yes. But you have also made us courageous. For we will not live in the world you are making, nor will we pass such a world onto our children, not without a fight, not without at least trying to stop you. We will take the bullet, that our children might live.

I am afraid, but I will speak. Tase me repeatedly, and if breath remains in my body, I will speak again. Beat me to a pulp. Break my bones, and you will break on me.