Phobic Nation

President Bush, this morning:

It's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way. I wish I could tell the American people, don't worry about it, they're not coming again. But they are coming again.
Although I could actually write an entire (and rather lengthy) post on how Bush’s “Terror Rhetoric” is beginning to sound more and more like he’s concerned about an invasion by a hostile race of extraterrestrials, instead I’m going to focus for just a moment on the notion that because another terrorist strike is, quite possibly, inevitable, the president doesn’t feel he can tell the American people not to worry. You see, I believe that it’s eminently possible to both feel despairingly certain that the terrorists “are coming again” and not to worry about it.

At least not actively. There are different ways to “worry” about something. Abstract concern is both healthy and inevitable, not to mention integral to the heightened vigilance that outlines self-preservation. “Worry” in such an abstract form is familiar to all of us; we worry about disease, accidents, aging, the health and safety of our loved ones. That kind of worry generally makes us more careful, less reckless—but it doesn’t debilitate us. In fact, when our worries consume us as individuals and fundamentally alter our lives, when we cease to function normally because of the fear such worry generates, they are no longer worries, but phobias, indicative of an irrationally disproportionate response to a perceived threat. The president wants us all to be actively anxious and, thusly, perpetually fearful—a phobic nation, paralyzed and compliant.

We hear, over and over and over, that 9/11 “changed everything.” And so it did, in the sense that America grew up that day, joining the ranks of much of the rest of the world, where terrorist attacks within one’s own borders are one of many things about which to worry. But that worry elsewhere is responsible. It acknowledges that terrorism, ugly and contemptible and unfair, may be inevitable, that governments, no matter how competent, may not be able to prevent every attack, and that life must go on without its breadth being limited by an incapacitating phobia that terrorism, like war and droughts and hunger and disease and terrible, unjust accidents for no reason, may one day raise its hideous head again and look us square in the eyes once more.

Yes. They’re coming again. Here, in Britain, in Iraq, in Indonesia, in Spain… They will come again. And worrying about it will not stop them.

We are not to be indifferent, or complacent. We are, instead, to operate from a position of strength, where we can effectively address those factors over which we have control that contribute to the rise of terrorism. A phobic nation is never safe—not from terrorists, not from its government when trading on fear, and not from its own people. We are to be willing to accept the risk, acknowledge the reality, and live bold lives in freedom, refusing to succumb to being terrorized.

Mr. President, I know it's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way, too. But, even though they're coming again, I will not worry about it, not the way you want me to. Not the way that makes me forget you were warned and did nothing to protect me, that makes me forget you started a war of choice which has made us less safe, that makes me forget you will steal our freedoms under the guise of protecting them, that makes me forget everything but my fear. Mr. President, I refuse to be terrorized by anyone. Including you.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus