It starts when you're always afraid
From the amount of fear flying through the air on a daily basis, it seems a lot of people have figured out what a great motivator fear can be. Every action our government takes seems to be based on making you afraid and then giving you a false sense of security by tightening your chains. Many businesses thrive on making you afraid of something, then selling you escape or protection.
We are constantly reminded that terrorists would like to do worse things to us than simply fly airliners into crowded buildings - they have suitcase bombs, poison gas and all sorts of other horrors waiting in store for us. And once we're good and scared, we don't mind having cameras everywhere and screeners feeling us up when we want to enter public places.
After this summer, we are afraid of hurricanes, but never fear, Homeland Security and FEMA have been given billions of dollars to shield us from the impact of the next big wind. Storm troopers on every corner in New Orleans made people feel so safe that now there's talk of sending in the military to enforce quarantines on the odd chance that avian flu mutates into a strain that affects humans, not just birds.
We're afraid that children will be molested, so we repeal the double-jeopardy law for "sexual predators" and keep them locked up after their prison terms expire. We're afraid of pain, so we put warning labels on everything that could possibly hurt us. We're afraid of cancer, so we verbally abuse anyone who smokes near us and get the city council, the state legislature and anyone who'll listen to ban smoking.
Fear sells, and if paranoia strikes deep enough, fear enslaves. That might not be heartburn, it might be acid reflux disease, but don't worry, here's a pill. Good Lord, what if something terrible happens to you while you're driving? Never fear, we have global positioning equipment and people standing by to find you wherever you may stray. What if the next terrorist, the next hurricane, or the next flu bug were to attack you? Never fear, we have troops at the ready to disarm you, oops, that is to say, ready to protect you.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We are afraid of dying, but you know what? Everybody does it. Nobody wants to die before "our time," But there are fates worse than death. One such fate is being afraid to live. Another is making security a higher priority than freedom. You have no guarantee that you'll take another breath, no guarantee that when you woke up this morning you would see the sunset tonight. Don't be afraid; instead, let that thought liberate you and motivate you to live as fully as you can - and don't surrender your liberty for a false sense of safety.
Would you rather be safe or free? Too many today would rather be safe, and wily people understand that, tempting us to give up just a little more freedom to be safe. As Ben Franklin said so long ago, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
The New Hampshire license plate says it all: Live free or die. Without freedom, we are the living dead anyway.