10A059 Restoring Fear by Jim Davies, 10/31/2010 Restoring Fear

Yesterday, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the Mall in Washington, and it was a bunch of fun; more like a party than a rally, its serious purpose was peppered with self-deprecating humor. "I'm sorry you had to hear me sing," said Stewart after a duet in which his part was so off-key as to disgrace a karaoke bar, "but it went okay in rehearsal."

The title of the event was so zany as to puzzle me for a long time, but I think I've got it now: we're getting the bad news out of proportion, things aren't as scary as they seem, if we handle this sensibly we will prevail. The duo set out to convey that by having Colbert play the part of fear-monger, to be overcome by the forces of optimism represented by Stewart. Simple, childish maybe, but a fun way to spend a warm Fall afternoon. Perhaps one phrase summed it up: "These are difficult days, but together we can get through them. They are hard times, but not end-times." I can go along with that.

The fear-mongers the duo had in their primary sights were no doubt the Far Right (Stewart is as far Left as one can go without falling off) who see a Red under every bed, but the examples they flashed on the screen came from all over the media, including even one from CNN's Wolf Blitzer; every day in every way, bad and scary news is thrust in our faces. They are right; it seems overwhelming, and I'm glad the Rally poked fun at it; the sentiment compares with the one in the most memorable bumper sticker I noticed at the Porcfest last June: "I've forgotten some of the things I'm supposed to be afraid of." The major media, by the way, actually stayed away, evidently for fear of being branded "too liberal"! So ABC, NPR, The New York Times, et al, were lampooned on-screen and presented with a "Fear Award" which had to be accepted on their "behalf" by a sweet little girl aged seven. I told you it was fun.

Alas, the message was overdone. They are seldom clearly identified, but there are quite a lot of things out there which really ought to scare us, and not just on Halloween - and fear is a healthy emotion, closely tied to survival. Lemmings are fearless, as they plunge over the cliff, and that's the problem. Here are just a few.

We should be afraid - very afraid - of the monstrous apparatus by whose buildings the Rally was literally surrounded. Behind its stage was the Capitol, where a few hundred people make "laws" we are all forced to obey or else, ultimately, be killed. In the other direction stood a monument to Washington, who summarized government as being "not reason, not eloquence, but force... a fearful master." Beyond that was the one to Lincoln, who showed the meaning of that force by causing the slaughter of one American in every 50 to prevent some escaping its reach. On each flank, beyond the museums, were offices for the swarms of enforcers, including Treasury, whose IRS has been described in my hearing by one sitting Congressman as "the world's largest terrorist organization."

It's a long list, of which those examples form just the beginning; yet the Rally never mentioned one of them. To the rational extent of identifying such dangers and taking action to remove them, our survival depends on the restoration of fear.

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