Monday’s Mtg: Is America’s Safety Really At Risk?

This is the first of several topics we’re doing on the subject of fear. That many Americans are afraid for their futures these days is beyond dispute. Whether they’re focused on the truly most dangerous threats and understand their causes is more debatable.

The public is all over the place in what to dread most. If you google a phrase like, “greatest threats to America” you get a list of fearful articles that focus on a huge variety of external and internal threats and problems: ISIS and illegal immigrants, inequality and Republicans, Obama and the Ebola Zika virus, climate change and the national debt, student loans and economic stagnation. We have talked about many of these before, and a point brought up frequently, including by Aaron and James, was that the American public is being led around by the nose. While the dangers we face from foreign enemies and domestic problems are real, this POV goes, none of them amount to an existential threat to the safety of the United States. Compared to the Great Depression, Nazis, Soviets, urban riots, and a Civil War, today’s problems are minor and manageable.

Yet, there is another point of view. Yes, the 2016 election cycle already is famous for its fear-mongering. To hear the Republican presidential candidates tell it, President Obama has transformed America into a smoking, post-apocalyptic hellhole. Bernie Sanders says we’ve become a democracy in name only and a (non-violent) political revolution is the only way to fix it.

Whichever POV you think is right, if any, consider this: Would such rhetoric resonate if the public were not really worried about our collective future? Today’s list of threats does, after all, include undetterable terrorist networks, record economic inequality maybe coupled with long-term economic stagnation, partisan political paralysis unequaled since the civil war, and potentially catastrophic climate change.

On March 21, our topic will be fear-mongering as a political strategy. For this meeting, I’d like us to focus on how big our fears should be. Does our country really face existential threats to its future, whether external or internal?

Here are some discussion questions for Monday and links to articles that we do NOT face such threats. For more details about specific threats, I’ve linked to our old meetings on some of them.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. What threats to America’s safety is the public worried about these days? Does it very by age/ideology/region/etc.?
  2. Objectively what are the worst external and internal threats to Americans’ safety?
  3. What is the case to be made that any of these threats pose an existential threat(s) to our nation’s safety? That they don’t?
  4. If we are overreacting to current dangers, why?
    1. How good are people at discriminating different threats?
    2. Are our civic leaders acting responsibly (politicians, news media, etc.)?
  5. What should our leaders do differently, if anything, to educate Americans about how threatened we are (or aren’t)?

SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –

Analyses:

FYI, old CivCon Mtgs on need for pessimism:

FYI, old CivCon mtgs on specific threats:

Next Week:  Dissolving the Glue – Is Americans’ Trust in Each Other Declining?

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5 responses

  1. This is really about the Feb.29th Meeting. It happens to be Leap Year Day and many people have special plans. Don’t you suppose you could reschedule just one time? Is there ever a cancellation for any reason? Please consider it.

  2. What do others think?

  3. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    Do people really celebrate Leap Year Day every four years? Anyway, I have no plans.
    Back to the topic:
    Politics largely revolves around the two poles of fear, and hope. The Republican candidates have had no trouble inducing the former, while Sen Sanders largely depends on the latter–of course, there is really a complex mixture of these feeling.
    The reality seems to be that, while the present situation is reasonably good, the future is rather murky. People have no confidence in it, at least. And so it is easy to play on their fears of the future.
    The interesting thing to me is that the real threat, unlimited expansion of the population, which is the real basis of most of the other fears, is scarcely mentioned.

  4. I have never in all my life heard of anyone celebrating leap year, unless possibly it was their birthday. If meetings are not canceled for major 3 day weekends, why would they be canceled for leap day? I don’t have a dog in this fight. Just stating a principle.

  5. Ted Cruz said the following on Meet the Press this week:
    “[I]f liberals are so confident that the American people want unlimited abortion on demand, want religious liberty torn down, want the Second Amendment taken away, want veterans’ memorials torn down, want the crosses and stars of David sandblasted off of the tombstones of our fallen veterans, then go and make the case to the people.”

    Donald Trump said this today regarding how General Pershing allegedly fought terrorist insurgents in the Philippines a century ago:
    “And [Pershing] caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood—you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem. OK? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.”

    FYI, the pig’s blood would have horrified the insurgents because they would have been Muslim.

    So, I thought having two mtgs related to fear-mongering would be a minimum number.

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