FEAR IN AMERICA

I check out Facebook. What I often notice—beyond dining and vacation photos—are aphorisms. These witty sayings reflect a variety of interests and concerns ranging from the human spirit to women’s issues to politics. They give the people who post them a chance to vent. They also get me to thinking about how fearful parts of America have become.

The U.S. has suffered a rash of mall and school shootings. Almost all take place in suburbs and small towns. While big cities like Detroit, Chicago and Oakland can be very dangerous places, few mass shootings occur in urban centers.

Why do so many people snap and murder in areas in which Christian identification and church attendance are high? These suburbs and small towns should be stable, peaceful communities. People say that’s why they live in them. I’m not sure they believe that.

I continually see posts from a young man who lives in suburban Dallas. His aphorisms focus on three main themes: Hunting and fishing are great. If you break into my house, I will kill you. And if you are a boy with intentions regarding my daughters, I will kill you. (Note: his daughters are little children.)

Let me set my own record straight. Hunting and fishing are good things though they’re not my interests. No one has the right to break into someone’s house. And no one has the right to harm children. (Many fathers of teen-age girls want to seem menacing to teen-age boys since the boys are preoccupied with thoughts the fathers had when they were teens.)

Further, I believe that anyone of sound mind having properly been vetted has the right to have a weapon in his or her home. Not a military-style assault weapon mind you, but a handgun or a shotgun. Many people do. And still, they live in fear.

My brother-in-law—who also lives in Texas—remarked that a friend had 5,000 rounds of ammunition in his house. Was he pulling my leg? I’m not sure. But this news flash: 5,000 rounds are 4,990-plus more than needed to stop an intruder. If you require 5,000 rounds to defend your home, you’re dead—or fighting a major war.

Given these attitudes—particularly the belief that “they” are coming for God-fearing Americans—the love of weapons and menace continues. The thought of controls on weapons—particularly military-style weapons and handguns with clips holding large numbers of rounds—greatly upsets the patriotic folks in America’s peaceful, religious heartland. A great number of these folks, by the way, have never performed military service.

What does this tell me? Despite the nation’s military and intelligence prowess, many Americans see the United States—and their own communities—as weak. So, despite high church attendance, Scouting and Little League, Smallville may really be a dangerous place.

Still, people on the Internet who declaim how tough they are and support the proliferation of more deadly weapons and ammunition, lead me to suspect that they suffer from an unreasonable and unhealthy dose of fear. The more they bellow about arming for strength, the more they suggest that they may be America’s weakest link.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village, too.And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

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2 Comments


  1. Tracy
    Feb 07, 2014

    Thanks for this. I hadn’t put together the inverse relationship between gun fetishism and serving in the military. The stereotype is retired drill sergeant with 5,000 rounds of ammo and the bomb bunker in the backyard, but I suspect that you’re right and most of us veterans (9 years Air National Guard for me) have a healthy distaste for weaponry. Fear is often described as False Evidence Appearing Real, and belief in that which is false as delusion. Delusion derives from ILLusion, of which the root is ILL.

    A whole lot of mental illness out there in Smallville indeed.


  2. Carolyn Perlstein
    Feb 08, 2014

    There are all kinds of dangers in the world, whether it’s a shopping mall shooter in the mid-west or a serial killer here in SF. To live in fear is to allow the fear to live for you instead of you finding a way to live in spite of the fear.

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