I must confess that I don’t understand the “Keep Fear Alive” and “Return to Sanity” marches scheduled later this month. I worry when comics become a central part of our political discourse, Will Rogers excepted.
As far as I can gather, Jon Stewart thinks the discussion has gotten too bitter and impolite. Steven Colbert plays the foil, arguing that during an economic crisis, Americans “cannot afford to face reality.” In their childish and ham-fisted way, they are both poking fun at the freedom folks–those incomprehensible people who have the audacity not to go along with the program.
Which brings me to fear. Irrational fear is a menace to humanity. From Salem to Saving the Planet, countless false but graphically-rendered threats to humanity’s well-being have resulted in the incarceration, torture, and deaths of millions. We have burned witches and imposed malaria on innocents in the name of the common good. The specter of a thing unseen but foreboding strikes at our primal hearts, incapacitating our reason in favor of lashing out.
Yet not all fear is irrational. The shadow following us down a dark alley may be a mugger. The coming thunderstorm could spawn a tornado. Absent a fear of the consequences, one would have no reason to pull out the pepper spray or get down to the basement. Tossing one’s well-being into the arms of fate works just often enough to con the clueless. The rest of us figure out that reasonable precautions make sense.
The Stewart/Colbert spectacle is as dangerous as it is unfunny. Stewart’s call to civility smacks of condescension and arrogance. It is directed at Tea Partiers, who are reminding the world that liberty is a worthy cause and that current policies are killing it off one nutty program at a time. Is that fear-mongering? Please. History has yet to demonstrate that witches are a real threat, but it has repeatedly shown us the result of unchecked state power. Warning people of the danger is the right thing to do, not a witch hunt.
Terry will not be attending the jointly-held marches in Washington. He suspects that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert will not read his blog, either.