Since 9/11, I have seen the explosion of fear spread across the United States. I have seen fear permeate all aspects of America. Fear now dominates our way of life.
I have seen college students afraid of protesting for fear of their names being added to terrorist-watch lists. I have seen college professors targeted as aiding the enemy by people fearful of their students learning about anything that may challenge the status quo.
I have seen a Republican majority in both houses of Congress label dissent "un-American" for fear of having to engage in open debate about the war on terror.
I have seen most major media outlets fail to ask simple, important questions for fear of losing their access to politicians, who then become unaccountable to their constituents.
This fear has translated into the inability of the strongest, most well-funded military in world history to capture Osama bin Laden. This fear has translated into a warrantless wiretapping program, declared illegal by a federal court and defended only by the invocation of a "state secrets" privilege. This fear has translated into a $7 trillion national deficit, built in part by fighting an unsuccessful war. This fear has led our president to proclaim that he has a plan to win the war in Iraq but also that the next president will have to make the decision to bring the troops home.
Fear is a tool of political convenience. It is the last resort of desperate politicians who have the same questions about how to ensure the safety and security of the country as everybody else. Fear prevents the asking of these questions and permits the answers to remain secret, under the guise of national security. Fear inhibits transparency in government. Instead of opening dialogues with people of all viewpoints, the cornerstone of any democracy, fear permits a powerful minority to silence debate among an overwhelming majority.