Edward R. Murrow, in his famous indictment of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, said that "Americans are not a fearful people". In an otherwise brilliant and accurate broadcast, this was his only error. It was no doubt said in the honest belief that it was the truth. Sadly, it was not. And is not.
Americans are a fearful people.
Americans are terrified nearly all the time of nearly everything. The very man Mr. Murrow was talking about is a perfect example of the fear mongers among us who play on our various nightmares to either their pecuniary or political advantage. The '50's were filled with such terrors...Russian Communists, Chinese Communists, Korean Communists, Cuban Communists. And our fellow Americans...spies, double agents...our own citizens, our fellow countrymen, selling our nation's secrets to the enemy. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, David Greenglass, Alger Hiss...the list seems nearly endless. High level, low level. Our government was filled with them. Our military was full of them. Root them out! Get rid of them! Kill them, if you have to! Just rid the country of them.
Our own era has similar fears. Al Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans. The foreign threat is real, as it was in the '50's. Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda operatives first assaulted this country in 1993, with the first bombing of the World Trade Center. He attacked our embassies in Africa in 1998 and bombed the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. And, most notoriously, he was the murderous impetus behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. One may argue with the methods with which these elements were fought. One cannot argue that they should not have been fought. And yet these foreign enemies are not the center of our fears as a people.
Our fellow Americans are.
Many of our current fears are rooted in the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community has been repeatedly violated by everyone from the New York police, who admittedly spy on their Muslim community, to a group of white citizens in Tennessee determined not to allow their Muslim neighbors...all Americans...to build a mosque.
Yet, it does not end here. We fear...and ultimately hate...our fellow Americans for a variety of reasons. The election of an African-American President seems to have stirred a segment of white society to fear their loss of preeminence in society. The changing demographics of the country lead to hatred of of all minorities, particularly Hispanics. We have come so far that now conservatives hate liberals, religious believers hate non-believers and any political disagreement is not only the sign of an opponent...but an enemy.
Americans have enough enemies. We need only look over any of our borders to find them. We need not be looking at our neighbors. To do so invites disunion and, ultimately, ruin.
Edward R. Murrow would have told us so.