The GOP's unbridled convention fear-mongering
We all understand the reality of our own eventual mortality, even if we try not to think about it too much. But if you tuned into the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday evening, you were reassured that your demise is right around the corner. Your children, too, are probably going to be murdered some time soon, as is everyone else you love and the very country in which we live. Though the official theme of the evening was "Making America Safe Again," it might better have been called "We're All Gonna Die — Trump '16!"
Danger is everywhere, the speakers on stage told the audience. "The world outside of our borders is a dark place, a scary place," said Marcus Luttrell of Lone Survivor fame, and he had plenty of support. "Radical jihadists are killing Americans" said Rep. Sean Duffy. "For a growing number of communities, the sense of safety that many of us once took for granted has been shattered," said Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
And there was no doubt who is to blame for all this. "Our adversaries no longer fear us, and our enemies are plotting against us. This did not happen by accident. It happened by design. It is the work of Barack Obama and the architect of his failed foreign policy, Hillary Clinton," said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas.
Retired general Michael Flynn, who was once on a short-list to become Donald Trump's running mate, accused the Obama administration of having "singlehandedly brought continued mayhem, murder, and destruction into our neighborhoods and onto the world streets." He also warned that when it comes to ISIS, "We must take seriously the possibility that these enemies have weapons of mass destruction and intend to use them."
Ah, WMD in the hands of swarthy Middle Easterners — an oldie, but a goodie.
And that's not to mention the most gripping speech of the evening (with the exception of Melania Trump's blatant plagiarism of a speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama), which came from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. "The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children. They fear for themselves," Giuliani said, his voice growing into a shout of desperation, mouth twisted in a rictus of pain and rage. "There's no next election. This is it."
Most of this came after the real centerpiece of the evening: Benghazi, where Hillary Clinton's true villainy is revealed. If you thought eight separate congressional investigations had uncovered everything there was to be told about that tragic night, you were wrong.
Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the American servicemembers killed at Benghazi, said, "I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son. How could she do this to me?" Her pain was evident, but it felt incredibly exploitative for this grieving woman, obviously uncomfortable with public speaking, to be shoved in front of a national television audience so everyone could gawk at her loss in the hopes it might peel a few votes from Clinton. "That's right, Hillary for prison! She deserves to be in stripes!" she said before looking around in confusion and being led away.
But foreign threats aren't fear-stoking enough, so Benghazi was followed by the "Immigrants: They're Coming to Kill Us" portion of the program, featuring the family members of a Border Patrol agent killed in a shootout, and three other people whose relatives were killed by undocumented immigrants, apparently because things hadn't been exploitative enough. "A vote for Hillary is putting all of our children's lives at risk," one said. Nevermind that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.
Here's the truth: America, and the world itself, are actually unusually safe these days. There's less ongoing warfare in the world now than at almost any point in history. The media certainly help propagate the false idea that everything's falling apart; in her recent interview with Trump and Mike Pence on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl said, "I don't know if you can remember the last time we have seen a world this much in chaos," which is positively ludicrous. America has no military rival; there is no country that could invade us or threaten us in any meaningful way, unless Russia decided to launch a nuclear attack. Despite the rise of China, we're still the dominant economic power on Earth, not to mention a global cultural and linguistic hegemon.
Here at home, crime has been on a steady decline for two decades. In the 15 years since 9/11, fewer than 100 Americans have been killed by jihadist terrorists, or an average of six per year, a stunningly small number. Terrorists might be able to kill a few people at a time, but they couldn't approach the damage we do to ourselves with guns (which kill around 30,000 people a year), let alone pose an existential threat.
But it seems that using calm and measured restraint while considering the state of the world is, well, for wimps. True strength is to be found in abject panic and fear-mongering, in the insistence that everything is spiraling out of control and the only thing that can save us is the wisdom and firm hand of a man who, when asked whom he consults for advice on foreign policy, says, "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things." This man may not know what the nuclear triad is, but he did bring the world Trump Steaks. I feel safer already.