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Snapshots : Creating and Fear

Creating and Fear

By Barbara Bowen


In the creative process, fear is inescapable. We meet various shades of fear upon entering any unfamiliar territory. At its best, fear will act as a friend, jumpstarting dreams to create beneficial reality. But it has other manifestations too. It can stop us in our tracks. Or, when out of control, it can distort reality in harmful ways. This election season prompted me to sit with Jane Mayer's book "The Dark Side." The narrative winds a fact-filled path through the bowels of the George W. Bush administration's war on terror since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. It may seem odd to use election season to illustrate the central role that fear plays in the creative process. But then again, everything is connected. So I'm going to give it a try.

Defense against terror and political agendas were not the only motivators in the subversion of our constitution after the shattering events of 9-11. Fear played a central role. The American people, including our leaders in the White House, were afraid — understandably so. However, as evidence shows, the criminality of 9-11 had no links in reality to justify creating a war with Iraq. In fact, the mission to destroy the real Al Qaeda perpetrators in Afghanistan was squandered in favor of the Iraq war. In a posture of intense reaction, Bush administration lawyers wrote new U.S. laws in violation of the First Amendment and Geneva Conventions, blatantly attacking our democracy and founding principles. Vice President Cheney at the helm, they charted a course through which the executive branch of our government could sail beyond all checks and balances — to maneuver with no restraint, outside the law. We have witnessed the unjust and chaotic war in Iraq that followed, along with torture, repression and enormous loss of respect for America abroad.

History bears out that creative action born of fear-driven reasoning has created the worst and bloodiest miscarriages of justice known to humankind. Committed not only by tyrants, but, indeed, by otherwise honorable people, insidiously bound to a tragic illusion — that the ends justify the means. At best, rigid ideological thinking blinds them to become, themselves, a mirror image of what they strive to defeat. At worst, the powerful use the fear of their populations cynically to monopolize power. Perhaps what happened in the Bush administration is a combination of both. "The Dark Side" is a riveting journey through the abuse of power. It's an astute, expert witness to the "slippery slope" that our American (and world) history makes clear, when we look. One night, with chills up the spine and hairs on end, I bolted from my reading chair. I could take no more, so I tripped the TV switch to flee. Opening credits for "The Life of John Adams" documentary were rolling. Ironic escape.

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