They told us to be afraid, be very afraid, of nukes.
Or, more correctly, to be afraid of our communist enemies who had nukes. Our nukes were good, of course. Their nukes were a terror.
When I was small, our pastors and teachers kept us Christian kids in line with fear of the commies, who were always threatening to launch nuclear missiles at us. Or, they were going to invade us and rip up our Bibles and make it illegal to pray. And we had to pray to Jesus really hard, or God was going to let it happen. And we had to make everyone else pray real hard too, or else the godless Russkies were going to make us cut up our American flags.
In the 4th grade, I was once subjected to a “drill” to illustrate just that. Our teacher told us what was going to happen: Men in military uniforms would come into our classroom, arrest her and bring in another teacher who would tell us to spit on the flag and throw our Bibles out the window. If we refused, we would be arrested and sent to a re-education camp where we would be taught to hate Jesus and our mommies and daddies. Because, as you know, the commies don’t love their families as we do.
When the Soviet Union fell, that fear faded. So, we had to be afraid of something else.
The preachers in our conservative mega-pulpits then tried to make us afraid of Bill and Hillary. They were “ungodly.” They were part of some super-secret Satanic ring trying to take over the world. Hillary was going to force all men to become women. She and Bill were going to “ban the family” and force us all to give our children to the state. And horrors, they were going to make us all get health care!
They had to be stopped. Everyone having access to health care was an insult to Jesus.
But that fear didn’t last long, even though it turned out to be a lucrative cottage industry for radio talk show hosts. It only appealed to the more insane and gullible of us. So, a new monster was needed.
We got it on 9/11.
At the time I foolishly thought the terrorist attacks would finally teach us the insanity of religious fundamentalism. Boy was I wrong. We just got more religiously fundamentalist in response. There were more than a few Christian preachers who taught that God allowed the attack to punish America because we didn’t believe as hard as the terrorists believed.
After a few years, the terrorist threat got smaller but more vicious. Now, we’re afraid of “lone wolf” attacks — some poor, isolated soul infected with a mind-virus of hate and fanaticism. And that makes it easier to find new people to fill the role of our fear avatars: Black people, brown people, anyone who wasn’t a Christian, feminists, liberals…
We are always to be afraid. We’ve been made afraid of anyone different. We’ve been made afraid of education, of being smart. We’ve been made afraid of anyone who won’t toe the line and bow down to authority. We’ve been made afraid of people with the insane notion that food, safety, and health care are fundamental human rights.
Fear, fear, fear. It was why religion was invented in the first place – as a salve for our fears of the dark shadows in the night. But now our religion is becoming fear itself. We’re addicted to it. We can’t live without it. It’s our drug.
And we always need a bigger dose, or else we won’t do what we’re told.