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I finally rented Bowling for Columbine and watched it recently. I've been meaning to watch it for a couple of years since I saw filmmaker Michael Moore on Oprah.

I'd much rather watch Bowling for Columbine than watch Bush fumble his way through reading a teleprompter while looking like a scared chicken. Hell, I'd much rather bowl in Columbine or do anything else than watch Bush.

I think Moore gets to the heart of the gun issue - it's not so much that guns cause gun violence in the United States at a much greater level than say, Canada. Canadian people possess guns, including rifles, at about the same level as people in this country, although the U.S. handgun ownership rate is significantly higher. Yet, the Canadian murder rate is three times lower than in the U.S., where there are 5.5 homicides for every 100,000 people annually, according to government statistics.

It's more the fear that is ingrained in us since day one, fear that is packaged and marketed through lucrative rightwing-leaning businesses and political machines. There's the fear of people of a different culture, fear of a nuclear bogeyman, which for me when I was young was Russia and now it's bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and unnamed "terrorists," fear that someone will break into your house and rob you.

Kids in Canada play violent video games and watch the shoot-em-up movies, too. But the TV media doesn't play on the gun violence in Canada as much as in the U.S., nor do the political leaders use fear as much to win elections as they do south of the border.

We have gone from FDR saying, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself," to Bush saying, "Fear everything because it helps me stay in power and others like me get elected. Fear bin Laden, fear Saddam, fear Iran, fear Syria, fear North Korea, fear Venezuela, fear Cuba, fear the media, fear poets, fear writers, fear artists, fear scholars, fear intellectuals, fear thinkers, fear philosophers, fear activists, fear Hollywood, fear gays, fear Democrats, fear liberals, fear any idea or opinion or fact that doesn't agree with my narrow, bigoted, selfish view of the world, and especially fear this Jackson Thoreau minor league asshole. Republicans are the only ones who can protect you, even though we haven't done a very good job so far. But facts have never stopped me before."

That about sums up Bush's State of the Disunion speech on Tuesday and subsequent addresses he will give for the rest of his term.

Democrats have also played that fear card before - look how many voted to allow Bush to invade Iraq - but Bush takes it to another level. Bush won his first election in 1994 for Texas governor by campaigning on people's fear of youth crime, and he hasn't stopped campaigning on fear.

Canada also doesn't have as many companies and advertisers playing on people's fears to sell products, such as home security companies playing on the fears of break-ins to sell security systems. It also doesn't have as many hit TV shows with names like "Fear Factor." And Canada doesn't spend near as much on missiles and other by-products of fear as the U.S. does.

When I was young, I was taught to fear black people growing up in the South. It wasn't so much anything that my parents or peers said, as what they did; they didn't associate with black people so by their actions they sent the message that we should fear African Americans. I remember a few black kids being bussed to my elementary school and saw some white parents angrily protesting that bussing. I especially remember seeing the angry white protest mobs on TV.

I just thought more deeply about this when I was young and realized it didn't make sense to buy into the fear. I was one of the few white kids in my school to play with the black kids during recess. I was the first in my family to bring a black friend into our home. I was the first to date outside my race.  

It's no surprise that I'm the only one who has voted for a Democrat for president in modern-day times in my family - and I'm still the only one who associates regularly with black folks. A recent study by psychologists from Harvard and the University of Virginia came to another unsurprising conclusion: Bush supporters and Republicans are more likely to be racist towards African Americans than more progressive voters. Numerous studies done before that one drew similar conclusions.

I also was the first in my family to realize it didn't make sense to fear the Russians during the Cold War. That's why I joined a long project in which participants walked across the U.S. and Europe to Moscow in 1984-85 as a statement for the need to get beyond our Cold War fears and stop the nuclear arms race. That stopped, but another arms race based on fear of bin Laden, Saddam, and others developed so the U.S.-led military/industrial complex could increase its gigantic appetite. And fear as a big, greedy, lucrative industry could continue unchecked.

The bottom line is the bottom line; fear and greed drive many U.S. businesses and the far-right wing of the Republican Party, led by Bush, Cheney and Rove. The neocons in the Bush administration are also driven by lust for an American empire. The quicker we realize this, the quicker we can do something to change it.

And we can change it - I remember being in Berlin by the Wall in the mid-1980s and talking to people who thought it would never come down. We changed some things on the surface then, but not enough down deep.

It's up to us to look within ourselves and figure out what we can do to change this situation below the surface. One way to begin is the next time Bush invokes the names of bin Laden and Saddam, which he will do often in the next few years, refuse to give in to the fear he wants you to feel.

Jackson Thoreau is a Washington, D.C.-area journalist/writer. The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies, was published by RiverWood Books of Ashland, Ore. He is working on another book called "Thou Shalt Not Cheat: How Bush, Rove & Co. Broke the Rules, From the Sandlot to the White House." He can be contacted at jacksonthor@gmail.com.

Originally posted to jacksonthor on Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 07:03 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad you finally saw Bowling for Columbine (none)
    Given the negative press that Michael Moore gets, from BOTH sides of the political divide, his films & books are very well done & speak truth to many people in this country.  I understand why Red State America despises Mr. Moore, but I've always been baffled by the Democrats' aversion to his work.  

    As to your diary's premise of "Fear Everything", I agree it is pure manipulation by Republican strategists that shouldn't get the traction it does at the polls.  The MSM is complicit in aiding & abetting the unreasonable fear of terrorism that pervades our society today, while the issues that we really should be concerned about are disregarded.

    I recommend you read "Stupid White Men" & "Dude, What Have You Done With My Country?" by Michael Moore.  Excellent analysis & prophetic commentary of the techniques of the Bush/Cheney cabal.

  •  Well said (none)
    FDR: Nothing to fear but fear itself.
    Bush: Fear everything, and I will use your fears to gain unlimited power over you.

    FDR shows true leadership in a call for individual fortitude in a crisis, while Bush manipulates and even manufactures fear, then says "don't worry, I'll keep you safe". Trust me. What really scares me is how well it seems to work.

    Impeach the imperial idiot

    by Jan Pults on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 09:43:53 AM PST

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