BlogMo 2: Culture of Fear

This has been an interesting political season for a number of reasons, but the one that has most struck me as the last few weeks of the presidential campaigns have played out is how afraid everybody seems to be, but for very different reasons.

(Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I am not registered with either political party. Overall I have tended to vote more Republican than Democrat when it comes to political office, but the hard right faction of the Republican party has really cheesed me off over the past few years, and the election has only amplified that.)

Most of where I have seen this is in the various editorial columns and blog postings out there.

On the Democratic side, there is a definite undercurrent of Obama being the last, best hope — the one shot we have of slowing down (and possibly reversing) this downhill slide (plummet?) this country seems to be on as a result of the past eight years. There is hope to be sure, but a definite sense that until everything is tallied on Wednesday, we shouldn’t count our chickens just yet.

On the other hand, the fear on the Republican side is not a grass roots, “hope for the best, fear the worst” sort of thing, but rather the tenor of the entire campaign. The GOP tactics (especially in recent weeks) have been geared to scare the public; throwing out buzzwords (and misleading buzzwords at that) like “socialist”, “terrorist” and so forth, there is a feeling that the Republican party wants to scare me into thinking that an Obama administration will take the keys to the nation and hand them over to the bad guys (which, in the case of the hard right, means “gays and liberals and communists”).

Now I don’t buy that, and I think there are a lot of people (liberal and conservative) who are tired of a government that wants us to constantly live in fear, and hand over our liberties in order to feel safe. (As that famously misquoted Ben Franklin adage states, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”)

The other thing that has struck me, or at least the thing that I’ve noticed for the first time in… well, as long as I’ve been paying attention to that sort of thing, is how passionate just about everybody — on both sides — is about this election. There is a real sense (not a media manufactured one) that this is one of the most important presidential elections in a long time. And while I think there are some people on both sides who are just blindly swallowing the party line, I think a lot more people are actually looking at what’s going on (with the war, and the recent economic slide, and so forth) and thinking about the issues, what it means to them, and will be voting accordingly. That isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion.

Personally, I thought that an Obama/McCain campaign would be a good one, and thought that whoever won in the end the country would see a definite uptick. Sad to say, the McCain campaign (guided, no doubt, by the strong right hand of the Republican overlords) has blown all their credibility, and whatever moderate support they might have garnered (like mine) by chasing after the hard right, conservative Christian vote.

That irrational, vocal minority of the Evengelical movement (the one that denies the foundations of established scientific thought because a book says something different) is, quite frankly, a blight on the whole Christian faith. What makes it worse is that they have helped construct this culture of fear and persecution; it’s easier to control the sheep in your flock if you have them convinced the wolves are all around.

In case it isn’t clear at this point, I’m voting for Obama on Tuesday. Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t feel the underlying sense of doom that informs much of the Democratic party’s attitudes these days. While things won’t pull a 180 on Wednseday morning, I think there will be something of a collective sigh of relief, and perhaps a collective unclenching.

At least, that’s my hope. Whatever the result, I think Tuesday is going to see record turnout, and I only ask that whichever side you mark on your ballot, you make it an informed choice, and not one that is driven by fear and ignorance.