I have spent the last five decades listening to the Negative Nancys of America.
In the 1960s, while I was still a wee child of single digits, I listened, but certainly did not understand, the depth of fear from Soviet aggression. “America as we know it will soon cease to exist,” I heard repeatedly from frightened family members, but it meant little to me.
Turns out it meant little to everyone else as well.
Early on it was the Watergate fiasco in the ’70s, followed by the Carter Administration, which was my first realization of the ideological differences between the two influential political parties. The “Arab Oil Embargo” and the hostage situation in Iran caused many around me to panic as well, prompting shouts of “America is no longer the great country it once was, and now it’s too late to do anything about it.”
Turns out it was rather Shakespearean; much ado about nothing.
The economic issues of the ’80s prompted similar fears. “Make the money while you can,” I was told, “before our American house of cards comes crashing down, and we all find ourselves fighting each other for food and shelter.” Although my skepticism was thoroughly entrenched by this stage, I was still in my 20s, eager to tackle the world while making my personal millions in spite of their constant negativity.
Turns out we were both wrong.
The ’90s were once again the beginning of the end, if you listened to certain ones. Family members warned me that “Clinton would do whatever it takes to remain in office in order to entrench his dictatorship and further his socialist agenda.”
It was becoming silly now, and my skepticism could be redefined as cynicism at this stage, but hey, divorce does that to a man. Either way, the whole “end of the world as we know it” was already way past the “this is getting old” level.
And again, the fear was all hype, little substance.
Then, sadly, came 9/11 in 2001, and not only did the extremists sink to new lows, but most of us (myself included) turned the fear notch up to 11. I admit to being afraid for a bit, but it faded as time — and life — went on. But then the election that put a black man into the White House brought the fear mongering and shouts of gloom and doom to new heights.
“It’s the end of America! ... My country is gone! ... It’s all fill-in-the-blank’s fault! ... Buy gold and save yourself when the dollar collapses! ... Buy your guns and ammo while you can, before the revolution begins!”
Sure, many of the above issues were serious at the time, but it turns out none were so earth-shattering as to cause the United States government to fail or our world to be turned upside down.
Yes, I know, a few of you are now shouting, “But Richard, it’s real this time! The America we love will soon cease to exist!”
Yeah-yeah, I’ve heard it all before. Sure, I’ll still pay attention just in case, but with children ranging from 14 all the way to 26, I’ll be damned if any of them will ever hear me spout such negative nonsense about the fate of America, much less the entire world, merely in fear of what “might” happen.
And neither should anyone else.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a weekly column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.