During the Depression Era President Roosevelt famously reassured the American people with words like this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” I don’t know about that, but today’s leaders, pundits, commentators and the general populace–both here and in Europe– seems to have some very focused fears. It all can be summed up in one word: terrorism. A recent New York Times poll showed that the American people have responded with a pervasive fear, that infects how we think and see the world, and more so than at any other time since 9/11. Several important points to consider here, especially if we are to have any spiritual clarity about what is going on.
*The real focus of this fear is what is usually termed as “extreme Islam”–whatever that is–though often even the word “extreme” is simply dropped. People forget that people of Islamic faith are present in Congress, have fought and died for the U.S. in the Armed Forces, and are actually the ones fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq. And ISIS is something that we, the U.S., created inadvertently by our arrogant and blind policies in the Middle East.
*Recently there was a gathering of people investing in the defense industry. Lots of money there. And all the top dogs from the major companies were there, like Lockheed and so many others. One of the spokespersons was recorded; in his speech to the gathering he pointed out how the investment outlook looked really great for these companies considering the instability in the Middle East. Nicely put–translation: the more fighting, the more money we can make. War is still very, very profitable for certain people. And believe me, here in the U.S. “terrorism” and homeland security are an incredible cash cow also for a lot of folks. There’s a lot of money to be made in all this. With that in mind we should not be surprised that “fear” is actually promoted, subtly but truly, and of course with certain people it is not even subtle.
*But what is more troubling, if that be possible, is that this focus on terrorism and this pervasive fear generated in the mass media and the public mind, blinds us to what is really going on and what we are becoming. With this kind of fear as motivational energy we begin to tolerate and accept all kinds of horrible things, like the drone attacks, like the bombing of the hospital, like torture, like government surveillance, etc., etc. But even beyond that, what is most troubling is that all this distracts us from seeing what we are becoming as a nation, as a people, as a civilization. Consider: there were 355 mass killings in the United States this year(the killing of 4 or more people)–and the year is not yet over as I write this. Only a handful of these were done by very sick people who claimed the Islamic faith. This country is saturated in killings, in guns, in death. Perhaps it is time to start fearing something else. Here is a brilliant piece of writing by William Rivers Pitt putting this in sharp focus:
I wish this had been written by one of my Catholic bishops; I would have been more hopeful then. Why is it that they just put out these dull church documents and show no prophetic leadership and never, never seem to address the heart. Why don’t the bishops condemn the NRA and this whole gun culture? Is there any spiritual maturity in our land….anywhere? Our leaders want to bomb and kill our way out of the problems facing us; is there another way? The Dalai Lama said that we need to talk to ISIS. I think he is naïve as all heck, but that’s a lot saner than bombing and killing.
And finally, reading what Pitt wrote, do you really think we are entering some new golden age of awareness, of consciousness, where spiritual possibilities will flower? And do you think all this vaunted electronic connectivity is bringing all of us together? I have my doubts.