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The Abuse Of Political Paranoia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   It's 9:02 a.m., a Wednesday. In the

virginal morning air of Oklahoma, children frolic on the way to school, but the hands of the clock do not dally. The seconds march by mechanically, as if practiced executioners. With their cold approval, the bomb explodes. The morning business inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building is interrupted as half of the skyscraper slides into the ground. In a breath the efficient "instrument of justice" annihilates at least 100 men, women, and babies. Another hundred or so will die more slowly, trapped in the convoluted pile of ashes, concrete, and human flesh.

Where do Americans get the drive to devise such slaughter? Where do they get the idea that mass murder is a noble way to voice grievances to the government? Where do they get such strong anti-government sentiment? Their inspirations are the right-wing groups, politicians, and the media who use "paranoid politics" to move the people against the government.

Looking for an emotional boost after an unfriendly visit from the IRS? Turn on the old short-wave radio and listen to right-wing fanatics such as Mark Koernke, a Michigan-based militia spokesman, explain how to use a nylon rope to hang legislators. Need some safety information? Tune into the nation's second most widely heard radio talk show and listen to G. Gordon Liddy's advice on what to do should federal agents invade your home.

Such words carry the seeds of fear, hate, and violence; they are the true invaders. To the struggling farmer or teenage dropout they fly. Kicking down the door, they march with steel-toed boots into the alienated minds of the losers. They bombard that little corner of the mind where the primal desire to hate lives, and feed it as it grows to devour the entire mind. Advocates of terrorism offer an alluring and glamorous world to the rejects. It's easier to blame, rebel, hate, and kill than deal with the taxes, traffic, and toil of everyday life. Besides, it's a lot more entertaining.

In the last five years, a hailstorm of critical, emotionally appealing rhetoric has flown out of the mouths of politicians. Often those who are best at placing the blame are the victors. The effect on the public has been tremendous; in the last election, voters threw most of the Democrats out of both houses. Fifty-two percent of the population believes that the Federal Government has become so powerful that it poses a threat to the rights and freedoms of citizens. If 120 million people feel the government is a threat to their freedom, then a large number will be inspired by this incendiary ranting. Some may even be led to believe that Janet Reno is a paid agent of Colombian drug lords, that the Park Service is out to destroy farmers, or that government laboratories are spreading AIDS. In a frenzy, some may burn flags, join militias, stockpile weapons, and commit unspeakable acts of terrorism.

Anti-government sentiment is not new; Thoreau wrote in 1849: "How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answered that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." What has developed since McCarthyism in the 1950s, however, is the use of "paranoid politics" to inflame the lost and fearful into action. It is a dangerous way to gather support, though. All would benefit if those who engage in "political paranoia" could remember other words of Thoreau: "It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things." ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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MalloryR. said...
Apr. 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm
wow! this is so beautifully written! most informative papers are boring and just present facts. but your writing is amazing! 
 
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