We seem to be living at a point in history when the word "enemy" has taken on meanings and connotations enough to keep most of us cautious, if not
outright scared to death, all of the time. Our enemies seem to be both everywhere and nowhere at all. Most of us, at least in the west, never even
come face to face with those who we consider to be against us. And, yet, we invest so much of ourselves into fear of them that we have quite literally
learned to mold our very lives around our fears.
Given that I am a bit older than the median ATS member, I have an understanding of this blind fear which supersedes our current demons. I can remember
when the boogieman was not an Arab at all. In fact, I can remember when the boogieman of today was actually our ally against the boogieman of
yesteryear. This small and random happenstance of perspective has led me to ponder and analyze how things have changed, over the course of my life...
and how they have stayed the same. Those intellectual meanderings have been festering within me for some time and they now lead me to write this
thread... So, without further ado;
The Face of Your Enemy
The Cold War
I was born into a world where "enemy" was an easy word to understand. It was black and white. There was a very clear "us" and a very clear
"them". Capitalism versus Communism. And, though I was born a bit late to have experienced the "Communists in our soup" era of
, I most definitely was born into the unfettered terror that era had given way to. The
stakes were high, during my childhood, and one image was constantly drilled into my head:
An image that was always there. I personally had many nightmares about nuclear war. But, hey, can you blame me? As an elementary school student it was
common for us to have nuclear war drills. We'd be instructed to curl up in a fetal ball, under our desks, and we were assured that this would somehow
be beneficial to our safety.
Even as a six year old I was pretty sure that the "fetal ball" defense would not stand up to vaporization. But what else was there really to do,
other than present a shape that made for the most organized and orderly dust pile?
My entire childhood was haunted by the specter of and the fallout from the "red scare
". The news
would often remind us that the doomsday clock
was always just a few ticks away from letting us
all know that the party was officially over and that the cockroaches and Keith Richards were due to take over the world. The news, the MSM, often
sprinkled in healthy doses of Nostradamus
just to keep our fear on its toes.
The atmosphere of society was utterly permeated by fear during this period and we, surely, knew the face of our enemy.
But, then, a funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypse...
An actor who had the gall to think himself a politician said a few words...
... and, as if by magic, the boogieman, who had tormented us and forced us to live in fear, simply
Without firing a single shot. Without the launch of even one ICBM, it was
People who had literally spent their entire lives in terror suddenly had nothing
to be afraid of. And this, well this was problematic indeed. I
mean... if there is no threat of a boogieman, hiding in the closet, to keep the kids in bed, then how can order be maintained? Common sense tells us
that you simply have to have a villain if you are going to write any heroes into your story.
It didn't take long for TPTB to find one for us.
The Arab Menace Version 1
Oddly, even though, in the waning years of the Cold War, Iran had taken 52 American citizens
and kept them hostage for well over a year. It seems that the cult of the
didn't have the sauce to be our boogieman. For reasons I'll never
quite understand, we opted to make the enemy of our enemy into, well, our enemy. And the new face of terror and fear became this guy...
... and, knowing just which buttons to push in order to get the American public adequately frightened and angry, this guy came complete with the
specter of weapons of mass destruction.
. And if that wasn't enough to get us all
on board with our new boogieman, the ante was upped... This guy came complete with his own army of super soldiers, known as
the Republican Guard.
This was a dire enemy indeed! And we rallied round the flag as our leaders prepped us for war.
But this plan hit an unavoidable snag. The boogieman wasn't very boogiemanesque once the shooting started. In fact, when we
this boogieman his defenses pretty much folded faster than a 1990's
Internet IPO. And we learned that "Republican Guard" was pretty much boogieman code for "really hungry guys who like to surrender."
This period of time stands out so vividly in my mind. I was a young man who had just gotten married and had become a father for the first time. I was
working two jobs to support my new family and, for a couple of months, my ritual was to wander in, from work, look at my son, as he lay in his crib,
sound asleep, and then turn on CNN so I could watch the days "smart bomb" footage. I probably spent an hour, each and every night, in this surreal
video-game like reality... the news showing night vision footage of bombs as they struck buildings, cars, planes, roads... anything and everything. My
life was good in those days, as were most other peoples I knew.
And this does not bode well for boogiemen, nor for the effect that they are supposed to have upon a general population. It didn't take long before
the specter raised in Desert Storm was behind us and we entered a strange little stage of history that I will call...
The Quiet Time
This was the ten year (give or take a bit) when we lived, for the first time in a very, very long time, without a boogieman to frighten us. These were
heady and wonderful years. Jobs were plentiful. Prices were low. People really seemed to have evolved beyond their past paradigms and it truly felt
like we might just make it. These were, undoubtedly, the best years of my life thus far.
Of course we did have a couple of flare ups, and some very demonic folks tried to make themselves into boogiemen. But, overall, they failed to capture
our imaginations to that degree.
One act, during this period did bring us back to that state of terror that always seemed to be just an instant away. That act was
the Oklahoma City bombing.
The day that this happened I had walked into a Target Department store with my (now ex) wife. Being male, I did what I always did upon entering a
department store... I made a beeline for the electronics department. Upon arriving in that magic land of gadgets, I found throngs of people staring at
a wall of televisions which all carried live images of the above... the shell of the
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
I didn't ask anyone any questions as I stared blankly at the screen. I instantly and instinctively knew that I was looking into the face of my old
enemy. I knew that the boogieman had come to call. My first thought, like I think most had, was that it simply must be Islamic terrorists. Even though
we had yet to reach the era of "The Arab Menace Version 2", it was a given that western people didn't do these kinds of things. Right? Right?
Of course the answer is "Wrong". It turns out some misguided Americans, thinking of themselves as "patriots" were to blame. Guys named
(Who, incidentally, died by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, just three
months to the day before our next boogieman appears), Terry Nichols,
Michael and Lori Fortier.
This group did not meet our collective definition of "boogiemen". Though, interestingly, they foreshadow into this very strongly.
Our magical decade without a boogieman couldn't last though. And as we are all aware, on
September 11, 2001
we were offered up the most vile and vicious boogieman that even a
fiction writer could fathom.
The Arab Menace Version 2
There is nothing I can say, regarding this date that hasn't already been said thousands of times, by thousands of ATSers already. Some events
transcend words... This one may be the most graphic and wholly manifest example of such an event. This tragedy created rifts in our world the likes of
which had not been seen since those days of McCarthyism. Rifts which continue to haunt and polarize us. And, from the ashes of those towers. From the
blood of the 2,996 innocent victims of the heinous acts perpetrated against us on that horrible day - our new boogieman arose...
What can be said? As a boogieman, Osama Bin Laden
and his purported organization,
fits the bill perfectly. They are like ghosts. Evil spirits who can live everywhere,
anywhere, and nowhere at all. Al-Qaeda is everywhere, Al-Qaeda is nowhere. All most of us really know is that these are people who live far away,
worship a God we don't understand, and who want to kill us, for no reason we can comprehend, with a zeal that we find more than disturbing.
This time around there is no economic situation to "bring down the wall". There is no nation for us to point at - a nation that might, one day,
fall, leaving us with no go-to boogieman.
Al-Qaeda is the perfect demon to hide under the bed to keep all the kiddies from getting up at night. Al-Qaeda is the perfect villain to dangle in our
faces in order to justify just about anything.
This villain has been our reason for nearly ten years of non-stop war. Hundreds of thousands of human deaths can be lain at the feet of our "war"
against this boogieman. Ten years of fear, panic, sorrow, and loss. Loss of freedom, life, and of hope.
The Face of Todays Enemy
And this brings us up to date. We now find ourselves in a society stretching at the seams. A society on the brink of insanity. TPTB seem to have
created the perfect boogieman... a little too perfect. During the McCarthy years we certainly turned upon one another. But this time around... this
time we are turning on one another with violence. Our actions, and reactions, go beyond simple fear and have leaked into the realm of pure and real
Our compassion... our sense of commonality... our trust... all victims of this latest boogieman.
Now we sell out our rights, our neighbors, and our souls as we seek safety and retribution for the day that those two towers collapsed into dust. Now
we turn upon one another like ravenous dogs left unattended. We polarize into factions, spew vitriol, and make threats with intent.
Some of us threaten to take up arms as a means of taking back the peace that we once knew. Some of us even try. We kill one another as if we,
ourselves, were boogiemen. And we do this all with a wanton abandon. We do this all with a blood lust that brings with it a troubling truth...
In our war against our boogiemen, we, ourselves, have taken upon ourselves his semblance. We find ourselves behaving in the same misguided ways as our
And in our actions, whether they feel warranted or not, we come to an ultimate and unavoidable truth. If we do not learn to temper our actions and our
outlooks... if we cannot find our commonality, once again, and strive to be shining lights in this world... then the day may well come, and very soon,
when we awake to discover that we, and our neighbors, community, and even our government all fall into the trap.
When that day comes, you won't have to look far, at all, to see the face of the enemy.
Just my thoughts. Thank you for reading them!