Culver City Observer -

Are We Terrified Yet? Carole Bell

Smart And Spicy


March 30, 2017

Feeling the fear? Scratch the surface of most Americans today. We're afraid.

You're spooked whether you know it, or whether you'll admit it (which is something entirely different), whether you've pushed it so far down it's there, trying to hide, or whether you're consciously aware to the tips of your nerve endings.

Right around the Presidential election most people said they were scared and overwhelmed; many saying they truly feared the future.

More than half of Americans aged 40 and younger (54%) said they are "afraid," compared with only a fourth of those 60 and older (25%), according to a Gallop poll 3 days later.

Not surprisingly, the numbers drilled down to political affiliation; more Democrats were fearful, while more Republicans were "excited." That paralleled closely to 2008 and 2012, where who felt afraid was reversed; those happy with results were hopeful; those unhappy were afraid.

Is this what we've come to? Is the U.S. so polarized that roughly half the population is going to be fearful no matter which party's in power?

Living with fear was so American during the Cold War (1947-1951); many Americans felt terrified of nuclear attack. Living life became possible if you compartmentalized.

Today, it's harder for most people to keep their fears in a little box.

What fear's so potent it outdoes nuclear war?

It's a combo; you get the main dish plus two extra mains, plus salad and fries. Supersized. Then you order several, just for one. It's multitasking by combining your fears; each bothers you to some extent separately; together, they're crushing.

Might that explain the American need to own guns? With a gun, a person can feel more in control (or with five guns, in Texas).

Is our fear real? Or is it the reaction of Americans to continuous blitzing by the politics of fear?

What Americans fear most?

In 2016, the biggest fear of Americans was corruption of government officials (Chapman University Survey of American Fears). 60.6% of Americans were "Afraid" or "Very Afraid" of this. Surprisingly, only 38.5-41% were afraid of terrorism, or terrorist attacks.

Only 20.3% were afraid of becoming seriously ill. 19.4% feared becoming the victim of a violent crime; 17.9% were afraid of whites no longer being in the majority. 17.5% of Americans were afraid of being murdered by someone they knew!

What's it for you?

Ironically, current politics in the U.S. might be turning Americans into Europeans; we may have to learn how to be afraid, and live with it. To Europeans, we're such a new country, still; they've survived their fears centuries longer than we have. Some attribute our bravery, our optimism, our very nature to our relative newness as a nation. They have millennia; we merely have 238 years.

Do you fear something irreversible will happen? You're not alone!

Will coal being dumped into a clean stream reverse itself?

If Aunt Sadie dies because she can't pay for medicine, or because while she now can choose providers, she can't afford any – will the next administration's undoing what this administration is doing bring her back?

Not so much.

If the coal dumped in the clean water stream causes ripple effects throughout the ecosystem, will restaffing the EPA in four years undo the damage?

We may be relearning how to live with fear, anticipating the inevitability of the next election. So we hang on to that invisible strap we construct out of nothing, we grab and cling to it, and tell ourselves things will be fine, just go through till we can get rid of what's happening. Two months in, think of congressional elections coming up, think of 2020.

Donald Trump is. He already registered as a candidate in 2020. That also yields some financial benefits, increasingly seen as motive for much of what he does.

Does Trump have an ideological soul? If we could just find a way to raise enough money, would it be possible to buy him off?

Health care. School vouchers. Pipelines. International accords. Is the way this is going down that one administration builds them up, one administration tears down, then the next builds up again, then the next reverses again? Getting dizzy?

So what? Reversal patterns are irrelevant when it comes to things that can't be reversed.

What are American soldiers doing in Iraq now? Why do we need an extra $54 billion for the military?

Do you believe we're inching toward war?

A psychiatrist friend once told me the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is more specific; it's aroused by impending danger. Anxiety is free-floating; you're afraid, but you're not sure of the exact cause.

Which do you think is stronger?

Anxiety is a killer. Sometimes there's something you can do about fear; take action, change a belief. It's hard to do that if you're not sure what it is that's scaring you.

Scenario: Donald Trump, egged on by Stephen Bannon, appoints foxes in henhouses; that part's done. Objectively looking at most of the cabinet people now in place, their inexperience, unsuitability for purpose, conflicts of interest make them absurdly inappropriate to head their spheres.

What if in fact, they are super-appropriate? If their real job's to destroy the agency they control, it's genius to put them in charge.

Super Fear: Our American fabric, our economic and cultural structure, will unravel, by specific intent. Next, we get ours back by insulting and offending so many nations that the laughing-stock we've already become turns more deadly, should we be attacked.

How will the boy who cried wolf, fake news and all, convince Americans, plus the rest of the world, to buy in?

Then *it* happens, the unthinkable event, so egregious that the President declares martial law.

It can't happen here, right? We know that, how?

That's the fear. Is it larger than when FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, with stakes so grand?

Them's pretty big stakes today.

People are afraid now, afraid the tweets and odd actions are intentional distractions from the main event. People fear there might really be some conspiracy to take away democracy, literally, given Steve Bannon's objectives.

People are afraid of the military build-up, with foot soldiers on the ground in Syria that we're not being told about, and such a lack of transparency that nobody knows numbers or what's happening. Coupled with cutting back the Coast Guard, and spending less for airport security – people whisper late at night in their thoughts, whispering only to themselves, that what if – what if – Trump wants something terrible to happen, so he can declare martial law. Is that possible?

Could we lose our democracy.

We broke it; we fixed it; now are we breaking it again or are we fixing it again? Over 1000 civilians have died in US-led coalition air strikes so far in March alone (Project Air Wars).

WTF is going on here?

Let's Not Be Afraid - Until It's Too Late (new U.S. motto?)

Is that the American way?

Let's talk about that pothole. Who will fill it? You? Your neighbors?

Now make it cancer research.

Now make it pure water to drink.

In the title song of her theatrical production in Hollywood last week, Ann Magnuson sang to what sounded like 60's-era hallucinatory chords. She belted out the same three-word lyrics over and over and over.

While her style may or may not get you, it's hard to resist the import of those repeated lyrics she sang:

"Seriously, WTF?"


Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

You can write to her at:


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