In the Dark Ages, of course, people feared legendary creatures like werewolves and vampires, creatures that can not only kill and devour you, but can turn you into creatures like them, creatures that prey upon other people. Of course, writers and artists continue to play upon these fears. J.K. Rowling comes to mind, of course, with her stories not only of werewolves and vampires but of dementors, which suck all the happiness out of you and can leave you as "a creature much like themselves--soulless and evil." Another variation on this theme is the Borg of Star Trek lore, which exist simply to assimilate other races into their collective. Captain Picard, himself rescued from the Borg, will go to any lengths to protect his ship and his crew from the Borg, but once any member of his crew is assimilated they become the enemy, and he will strive madly to destroy them.
Therefore I find it strange that, when something bad actually happens, our tendency is to transform into something very like the Borg: single-minded entities that fear and mistrust anything that challenges their collective thinking. I'm refering to the time after September 11th, 2001, when all of a sudden our primary value was unity, which was somehow taken to mean that we must all be of the same opinion and it must be the opinion of the president, because he was not just the bloke who happened to be in power when it happened, he was our wise and solicitous big brother (all Orwellian connotations are meant to be implied) who looked out for us and knew what was best for us. I wonder if perhaps this unity wasn't largely motivated by fear as well. How many people flew those American flags, not from a sense of patriotism or in respect for the people who died, or in solidarity with our vengeance-crazed president, but out of fear of recrimination if they refused to do so?
And so it continues; we persist in becoming that which we would fight against, that which we seek to destroy. If there was one argument that had me entertaining the notion that war in Iraq might be justified, it was putting an end to the practice of torture and denying human rights. Now, not only are we Americans torturing people ourselves, but we have people defending the use of torture, even arguing--unbelievable as it seems--that those who invoke and uphold the Geneva conventions are "terror allies".* Terror allies, because they denounce the infringement upon prisoners' human rights, one of the very rationales the current president used in his case for war against Iraq.
If Mr. Bush is right about anything, it is this: we do get our news through a filter, or rather, many different filters. Unless we witness the things happening ourselves, this is unavoidable. I get my news through a funny filter. Jon Stewart reports on these unconscionable atrocities, and then makes jokes, not about the atrocities themselves, but those to perpetrate them. This not only serves to make the news easier to take, it also reveals the perpetrators for what they are, abusers and manipulators. But the funny filter cannot, nor should it, mitigate the absolute horror of what is going on, in this country and out of it, behind closed doors and in dark, secret rooms, as well as in the bright lights of television studios and on the floor of Congress.
We are becoming that which we most fear.