On December 7th of this year – the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – the United States will celebrate seventy years of perpetual war. September 11th will commemorate one aspect of this long war – the War on Terror – but the calendar could be filled with other bellicose starts and stops: the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the War in Iraq (parts I and II), the Afghanistan War, and various incursions into places like Nicaragua, Grenada, the Balkans, and even South America as part of something called the War on Drugs.
What’s it like to be at perpetual war for nearly three-quarters of a century? Americans have become a fearful people. They are so alarmed at the possibility of a terrorist attack they have willingly given up important Constitutional liberties, even to the point of submitting to intrusive and degrading inspections at airport security. Fear of crime is such an undercurrent of American society that all new cars come with theft alarms. Americans spend billions of dollars yearly to protect themselves from identity theft, and they are greeted at supermarkets with sanitary wipes because of the fear that some stranger left dangerous bacteria on the shopping cart. Fear has caused Americans to turn upon themselves: Democrats against Republicans, Red states against Blue states, liberals against conservatives, Christians against the non-religious, rural against urban, South against North, blacks against whites, the middle class against poor people, and so on. This is a fractured nation, but at the same time a highly militarized nation, and is it any wonder that Americans love their guns, even though firearm violence kills 39 Americans every day?
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