I was flipping channels the other day and I stopped for a moment to watch a few minutes of the late Mister Rogers. I didn’t watch the show very often when I was young, but I can see why he was so popular with children. Granted, he wasn’t exactly the most exciting person in the world, and I doubt many adults, especially some of the new TV “personalities,” would spend a lot of time with him. There was nothing controversial or judgmental about him, nothing that would make you feel any way threatened or intimidated, and the fictional neighborhood he lived in reflected that. It was nice, it was boring, but most importantly, it was safe.
A neighborhood, a community, whatever you choose to call it, is a purely social entity. It can be based on geography, nationality, race, religion, ideology, even things like fandom. Most people are parts of several communities based on any or all of those definitions. But safety is the primary defining characteristic for all neighborhoods, not just in the physical sense but in the emotional sense as well. We feel more comfortable with people who share the same viewpoints, and we tend to (at the very least) feel uncomfortable with those who share opposing or different views. This is all perfectly natural.
It’s how we deal with those differences that makes a neighborhood either safe or dangerous. Ideologues, regardless of their defining traits, treat their neighborhood in the same general way: you’re either part of what they are or you’re dead or otherwise removed. Liberals tend to be more tolerant of other viewpoints and new ideas, conservatives mistrust change, and libertarians take a more Darwinistic approach to intolerance: believing that the weak will weed themselves out through their own incompetence (as opposed to the ideologues who prefer blunt instruments).
The Bushes and their primary supporters are ideologues. Their “neighborhood” is defined first and foremost by family and next by a few trustworthy friends. It’s a paranoid, mean-spirited, arrogant, restricted community, protective of its power, and willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to prevent anyone else from harming them or taking their place. The only thing that matters to them is that they’re in control, and damn everyone and everything else. Their extreme reactions to events is dictated by the fear that someone will do the same to them. The PNAC policy, for example, isn’t designed to protect the US or it’s citizens as much as it is to protect their business interests, since power and money go hand-in-hand. Rights, freedoms, the law, all these things threaten them. Open societies prevent them from doing the things they feel they need to do to survive. And since the US federal government was the only entity that had the power to stop them in their tracks, they chose to fight it by taking it over. And now that they have it firmly in their grasp, they can use it’s military might to cement their hold on the entire world. You don’t have to believe me, just ask the people of Iraq.
Throughout history, the human race has been divided into any number of communities, all engaged in a competition over land and resources. As technology has improved, the need for communities to work together has grown along with it, and in the last century there has been a slow but steady move towards the creation of a truly global community, the biggest “neighborhood” the human race has ever seen. Twice during this time, global war has broken out, and in the aftermath a political entity was created to prevent it from happening again. The League Of Nations failed in it’s task, however, because it wasn’t strong enough politically, the UN was more successful because it had the backing of a major military power, but it too will fail because that single power has been taken over by people who hate the very idea of the UN to begin with, which is ironic, because the US was the guiding force behind it’s creation. The only way for such an entity to be successful would be for it to have it’s own military capable of challenging the might of any single nation, and that goal will be the most difficult to achieve, because it will mean rejecting centuries of division and mistrust. The actions of the Bush administration may just be the thing to scare the other nations into working together, however. For years we’ve acted, for the most part, benevolently, now we’ve turned against the organizations we helped to build because they don’t serve the interests of a few power-hungry men. We’re speaking louder and louder, and carrying a bigger and bigger stick, and we’re scaring the crap out of everyone else.
But as I have said before, the choice is ultimately up to us. In the end we have a choose what kind of neighborhood we want to live and raise our children in. We can live in Mister Bush’s neighborhood, where we make ourselves safe by arming to the teeth and being on constant watch for anyone we don’t know, willing to kill anyone we even suspect to be a threat (or anyone our leaders tell us is a threat). Or we can live in Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, a neighborhood where we feel safe because we’ve all taken the time to build an infrastructure where people have no need to feel threatened because it would be unthinkable for anyone to threaten anyone else.
Which would we rather live in?
Which are we going to get?
Joseph Vecchio, a veteran of both the US military and of the internet, is a freelance writer. His daily blog, “Pax Liberalis,” can be seen at http://joevecchio.blogspot.com. He contributed above perspective to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Georgia, USA.