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America's enemies also come from within

Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 12:58 p.m. CDT

“In politics, what begins with fear usually ends in folly." — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I have said this before, and I will say it again: One thing I fear more than al-Qaida or Taliban terrorists are domestic terrorists. It does not matter the why or wherefore; we are our own worst enemy.

The latest story broke May 20 and looks like it will continue for a long while. Sunday’s Associated Press headline written in the print edition of the Columbia Tribune (page 6A) read, “Prison Islam called a threat.” The only word that jumped out was and still is “Islam.”

You have to read the article to learn that three of the four alleged terrorists are from the U.S., the fourth from Haiti. That three of the four alleged terrorists converted to Islam while serving federal prison sentences. That their last names are Williams (uncle and nephew), Cromitie and Payen — not names we associate with terrorism or terrorists.

My position is simple: This headline and others like it promote anthropophobia, xenophobia and theophobia and should be a disgrace to Americans. It is not. Americans need an enemy. We need someone to fight. We need “Them.”

For many Jews, the enemy was and still is the Germans. The anger over the murder of millions in death camps is still so strong that 50 years after the end of World War II, many will not ride in a German-built car nor listen to Wagner operas or symphonies. The atrocities of the Nazi government in the 1930s and '40s were so unforgivable that the German people must continue to pay.

In the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s, it was those “damned and ungodly Communists,” the filth from the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, North Vietnam and, of course, Cuba. We lived with air-raid drills and bomb shelters to protect ourselves from the inevitable nuclear attack from “Them.”

Economically, the enemy in the 1970s, '80s and '90s was Japan, threatening America’s dominance in manufacturing. With Japan’s infrastructure destroyed in World War II, new and modern factories were built producing better and less-expensive goods. All done with the financial assistance from the United States. How dare they. 

During the '80s and through the new century, the enemy has included those crossing the southern borders of this land seeking only the American Dream. We fear them because they do not speak English, they do not look like us and they dress funny.

This decade, the enemy also includes anyone from any Middle Eastern country, except Israel. More so if that person is Muslim. Every one of “Them” is responsible for 9/11.

We have become afraid of people, of foreigners and members of specific religious sects. Americans have become anthropophobic, xenophobic and theophobic.

Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told the Los Angeles Times, “(The arrest of the Bronx Four) shows how real the threat is from homegrown terrorists.” Yet journalists and bloggers appear to spend more time on the growth of radical Islam than domestic terrorists. Most reports of the arrests remind the readers that all four grew beards that were “thick and bushy in keeping with devout Muslim norms.”

The perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombings, Michael Fortier, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols , are (or were) Euro-Americans and mostly nondescript. They were more dangerous, better organized and more motivated than the Bronx Four. We “trusted” them because they were white, spoke English and dressed like Americans. America first wrongly blamed radical Muslims.

If you were to meet people on the street, one clean-cut and Euro-American, the other Arab-American and wearing a full beard or a burqa, who would you trust? Add an African-American in the mix and does your opinion change? What if none spoke English? Be honest, painfully honest.

Americans want to believe the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, herself an immigrant. Emma Lazarus wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … ”

How long can America continue if we add to this wonderful sonnet, “But only if you look, dress, speak and sound like us”? Aren’t we either immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants?

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com.  He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.

 


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Comments

Janet woods May 29, 2009 | 10:47 a.m.

Applause! Applause! I have long wondered how a nation forged of immigrants can be so wary of those who are "not like us."

(Report Comment)
Sandi Mackenzie May 29, 2009 | 1:28 p.m.

David, this is a wonderful article and it expresses things I have been saying for years. Everyone needs a scapegoat and we won't be satisfied until the entire world hates us.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 29, 2009 | 4:52 p.m.

@David Rosman:
Yours is one of the worst articles I have ever read in my life.
("Anthropophobia is a condition in which people experience unusual and often extreme difficulty with being around other people. This particular phobia goes beyond the more common fear of being in crowded social situations and extends to experiencing a great deal of discomfort even when with one other person. While some cases of the condition are relatively mild, other situations are so intense that the individual may choose to shut himself or herself away from any type of direct human contact, limiting their social interaction to handwritten letters and electronic communications.

Normally, it takes a healthcare professional to define anthropophobia as the proper diagnosis for an individual. This is because a number of the symptoms for the phobia are common responses that most people have to uncomfortable social situations at one time or another. The anthropophobic is often unable to look people in the eye during a conversation, will often blush for no apparent reason, and tends to often think others are making covert judgments about the patient’s physical attributes, intelligence, or mode of dress. What is different with a true anthropophobia definition or diagnosis is that these symptoms are not transient and are often so intense and frequent that the patient is unable to relax even in the company of people he or she loves and trusts.")
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-anthropo...
Xenophobe:
A person unduly fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples.
Theophobia:
Abnormal fear of a deity or of divine punishment.
http://www.phobia-fear-release.com/phobi...

(You know what I think's happening? I think Americans are becoming better at recognizing who, what and how our enemies operate and the "disguises" they wear.)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr May 29, 2009 | 6:43 p.m.

ray shapiro you really should read this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Enemy-Within-Ameri...

(Report Comment)
Sheridan Peterson June 1, 2009 | 2:34 p.m.

Fear has always been essential to hold such a diverse culture as America together. Having a common enemy has existed since the forming of our nation back in 1776. The engineering of the collapse of the World Trade Center was seen as a necessity by the Bush Administration in order to rally the American people behind the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They figured that if the burning of the Riegstag worked for the Nazis why wouldn't the destruction of the World Trade Center work for them. People forget that the sinking of the Main at Havana was necessary in order to get us into a war with Spain. It's an old tradition - fear that is. In his novel 1984, George Orwell laid it all out back in 1949 on pages 151 - 178 The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.

(Report Comment)
Charlie Fern June 5, 2009 | 1:40 p.m.

I agree that our leaders believe Americans will approve of or respond to calls to action if they can rally us around fighting a common enemy. Americans respond to fear in many forms - politics and government, employment, parenting, even purchasing decisions. That's why ads and headlines are loaded with negative, fearful information. And that's why we lock our doors when we're home during the daytime.

It's sad that we allow ourselves to be manipulated by fear mongers. It's also a sorry state of affairs when any religion - whether it's Baptist, Catholic, Muslim or any other - promotes extreme behavior and violence in the name of God or other deity. HIstory is rife with examples of it, though - from the Crusades to wars in Afghanistan and ethnic cleansing in Europe and Eastern Europe.

You'd think humans would have evolved over thousands of years, but we seem stubbornly devoted to dangerous traditions, close-minded about tolerance, and resistant to change....yet we are also susceptible to propaganda and emotional/psychological manipulation. (Interesting side-note: Gen Y reports that they get a substantial portion of their NEWS from the Colbert Report and peers.)

Fortunately, there are places where decent people can engage in an honest, open dialogue about humanity - like this forum/medium.

Thanks for sharing, David. I enjoy reading anything that exercises my brain, whether I agree wholeheartedly with every premise or not. We learn most by considering the opinions of others -- all opinions.

(Report Comment)
Polly Bowers April 1, 2010 | 6:39 p.m.

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(Report Comment)

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