Eugene T. Paslov: Fear is alive and well in our country
Fear of government is alive and well in our country. Higher percentages of citizens distrust government than at virtually any time in our history.
Much of the fear is unfounded and based on irresponsible rhetoric from ideological talk show hosts – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and the like. Some neo-conservatives also capitalize on this fear. They seek to stifle rational debate and distort the truth.
Fear leads to violence and causes destruction of all that is cherished in our country – the ability to share our views without retribution, the right to expect our government to help us, through economic stimulation, health care, education, public safety, and the expectation that the government will protect us in times of emergency and national disasters. Those who are engaging in fear-mongering are undermining the basic values of our country.
Fifteen years ago, on April 19, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 men, women and children. His primary motivation was rage against the federal government because of the Branch Davidian affair in Waco, Texas, where cult members killed ATF officers when they tried to rescue the children, and 82 Davidians died in the ensuing gunbattle and later a fire at the compound. McVeigh was consumed by fear the government was going to take away his guns. There are some today who idealize McVeigh for his monstrous act.
Joe Stack flew his airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas a few months ago, killing one and injuring several. His motivation was fear and hate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an agency that keeps track of domestic terrorism, reported a large increase of 363 anti-government militia groups last year. The so-called militia/patriot groups fear democratic government. The Hutaree group in Michigan set out to protect citizens from law enforcement and other “insurgents.” They planned to kill the police.
Former President Clinton recently spoke out about the “vast echo chamber” offered by hours of vitriolic AM radio and irresponsible cable news. He noted, “We must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.”
For President Clinton’s effort in responsible debate, our most “unhinged citizen,” Rush Limbaugh, on his vast, AM radio echo chamber, accused President Clinton of causing the bombing in Oklahoma City. Talk about demented.
With armed citizens prowling our national parks and public buildings, we should all worry about the “delirious and unhinged,” including radio talk show hosts and Fox News.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.