Preface: so this post turned out so long that it needed a preface. jeezus. i apologize for the length. i welcome challenges, and want to respond to arguments against my commentary. knowing your enemy is just as important as knowing yourself. i've ended up covering a lot of ground (or blathering, you decide), but my theme is clear (and will probably become severely annoying by the time you reach the end). there also may be a fair bit of soapbox preaching in there, so if it gets too bad, um, tough. the country needs to be preached at. you'll see my reasons why. So the pattern I've noticed is this: Americans always have to be freaked out about something. There has to be a new crisis every five minutes. During the quiet Clinton years it was "road rage", then "talking on cell phones while driving", any number of basically inconsequential things that could be hyped up to make into headlines. And we've gotten worse. We're no longer afraid of things that may actually hurt us, we're afraid of things that have astonomical odds of actually affecting our lives. If you think about it, how many Americans have died from terrorism in the last twenty years, all over the world? Maybe, (generously) 6-7 thousand? Out of 270 million Americans? You have a better chance of winning the powerball than getting killed by a terrorist! And yet, millions of people line up every day and diligently remove their shoes in order to feel "safe". The truth is, they're no more safe now than they were before, and now they've got no shoes on. But it makes them feel better, so they do it. We are also afraid of life itself, it seems. Every other commercial I see is for a drug that promises to make you thinner, happier, more outgoing, more actractive, sleep better, be more awake, give you raging hard-ons and have great sex. When did people decide that life could no longer have ups *and* downs? How do you appreciate the ups without the downs? And none of these drugs really *solves* any problem. It only treats the symptoms, and gives you a temporary sense of feeling better about yourself. We've become sheep, frightened by the flash of lightning, and herded by corporations and the government. We've not only convinced ourselves that our way of life is the best and only way, we're convinced everyone else should be grateful to join us in our neuroses. (Although I'm sure this particular trait isn't solely perpetuated by us, we're just some of the most vocal) If anything, we're more isolationist now than we ever have been. But we've chosen a new and scarier way of being isolationist. A hundred and seventy-five years ago we wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world, let them solve their own problems. Now we are afraid of the rest of the world. Imagine, George W Bush, leader of the most powerfull nation in the history of mankind, afraid of Iraq! Whatever for? And we were so afraid of Saddam Hussein that we toppled his government and occupied his entire country just to assuage our irrational fears! Does that make sense? And if Bush wasn't *afraid* of Saddam, if he didn't truly fear Saddam's capability to attack and hurt us, then what *did* he fear? Has he acted like the most powerful man on Earth should? How should the most powerful man on Earth act? Should he crush every foe before he becomes strong enough to attack? That sounds like a unwinnable proposal to me. Should he be generous, kind (yes, kind! Imagine a president known for being kind! It boggles the mind, doesn't it? WHY!?) and set an example the rest of the world can look up to, rather than down upon? I can only speak for myself, but the latter option sounds better to me. So here we are at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and what have we acheived? We've got petty drivers on the highway, pulling petty stunts to keep the people behind them there, just to make themselves feel better. We've got petty men leading our country, whose first thought is to prove how strong they are, to make everyone fear their might so that their enemies might not find out how small in stature and mind they truly are. We've got corporations who feed us our fears, and we lap them up and ask for seconds. Where are we now, and more importantly, where do we want to be? If we want a world ruled by fear and greed, where people escape their problems rather than confront them, where people would rather be on top than right or honorable, then we are on the right path. If we want something else, then something must change. Remember the clerk behind the counter who snapped at you the other day? You know the best way to deal with them? Be the nicest person you can be. Smile at them, ask them if it's been a long day. Wish them luck for the rest of the afternoon. Why get pissed at them? What exactly does it accomplish? Congradulations, there are now two pissed off peolple instead of one happy person and one person stunned that you actually cared or thought to ask. Treat people like you know them. Our drug-addled, image-concious, me-first attitude in the United States has finally put us in a position where we have stepped beyond the bounds of good sense and good behaviour. We've begun to look down at the rest of the world while ironically being afraid of it at the same time. What are we afraid of? We are the strongest nation, militarily. We are the strongest nation economically. We are the richest nation on the face of the planet. We have great institutions to keep us in balance. We have a populace that wants to be generous and help, if we can just tear our eyes from our mirrors for a second to look around us. Let's be the best we can be, rather than letting our fears and our prejudices blind us to the good in others, and the failings in ourselves. Life isn't perfect. Life isn't always great. In fact, sometimes it sucks. But don't take it out on others. Why should we let our anger and fear decide our fate, the course of our day, or the policies of our nation? Why should let our leaders be proponents of greed, fear and paranoia? I don't advocate tea and biscuits, but neither do I advocate "shock and awe". How about something few Americans do well - listening. Not just hearing, but understanding. When the time comes for action, the people will know. Playing on fear and avarice will rile them up, but when the need truly arrives for definitive response, riling them up will be unnecessary. As the richest, the most powerful, the most influential nation on Earth, we should make it a point to follow our "better" instincts. We have the money, the power, and the will (if we choose to use it) to accomplish our goals using nothing more than those three tools. Choosing our fights, and promoting peace rather than war will not be the easiest way to do things. It never is. But noboby ever said it was easy being the good guys. Our unending war will never truly solve any problems, just like popping a pill will not really make your life better or happier, and taking off your shoes at the airport will not make you any safer. I'm sorry this has taken so long, but I feel like there's a lot to get across, and I don't want you to think that I see the world in the same monochrome as those I'm condemning. I just want you all to try and see that there is a better way, one that no one believes could actually work, because they say it is naive or unrealistic. I say it has never been tried. Some will point out that we did nothing to al-Qeada, and coddling them wouldn't solve our problems. I would ask them to think about what motivation they had to attack us. No human action occurs in a vacuum. There is always a reason, no matter how buried, or irrational, or unwarranted. Let's look at our actions as a nation, at our lifestyle as a society, at our goals as a people, and decide what we want. And let's decide to be the best we can be. Let's make ourselves a nation worthy of respect, instead of fear. Let's be a nation of leaders rather than dictators. Let's lead they way forward, rather than fall back on old, destructive habits. The future is waiting, what will you make of it?