Government, media are responsible for American attitude of fear, violence

The New York Post reported that in Connecticut, a father, Jeffrey Giuliano, accidentally shot and killed his son, thinking that he was an assailant. The 15-year-old boy was seen lurking outside of his aunt’s house wearing a ski mask and carrying a weapon of some kind. His aunt, not knowing it was her nephew, called her brother to come to her aid as she described that someone was attempting to break into her house.

Though the young boy’s exact motives were unclear, some sort of exchange took place between the masked boy and his father, and the scene ended with Giuliano fearing for his life, shooting the boy. Only later did Giuliano learn that the dead stranger was his son. These devastating events display how too often people act out of fear and emotional instinct instead of using logic as a means to dictate actions.

No parent should have to deal with the death of a child, let alone a death that resulted from an accident of his own hand. Giuliano cannot be blamed for his actions because his response is something that society has taught to all of us: kill or be killed. This is a tragic accident that could have been completely avoided had a different response played out.

Unfortunately, this fearful interplay between a man and his son is a clear representation of American ideology. As Americans, we are quite literally jumping the gun and responding to situations with a defensive and self-preserving attitude that can end only in violence, but again, that is the response that our government and media have taught us. Even locally at the University, our email inboxes are bombarded regularly with alerts about attacks and assaults, which further demonstrates how fear can be transformed into violence against others.

Instead of using rational thought to make a correct judgment on a situation, people are simply acting thoughtlessly in a fearful manner that is both harmful to themselves and to those they act upon. It is imperative that reason and logic take precedence over fear and anxiety because fear will only lead to hysteria.

Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this aggressive response began, one pivotal event that comes to mind is the 9/11 tragedy, which even 11 years later haunts our memories. The government’s responses to the attack, though appropriate at the time, have left scars on the American psyche, which have proved difficult to heal.

For me, one of the most distinguishable effects of the attack is the emergence of a mind-set centered on the idea that we are always under attack and must constantly be defending ourselves, whether this is at a national or personal level. This was perhaps the mentality of Giuliano when he accidentally killed his own son — the idea that anyone and everyone is a threat, no matter the circumstances.

The problem with this thinking is that it is a perspective perpetuated by fear. And until recently, the government has sustained this level of fear in people by advocating for an aggressive approach in regards to foreign policy, under the guise of protecting our homeland security. Through the use of the media, the government argued that our country had to be aggressive in protecting our safety after the terrorist attacks, and this mentality trickled down to the local level where increased distrust of individuals prevailed.

Fortunately, the government is taking an active role in adjusting this American mentality of fear by advocating that the time to be aggressive has passed and threats against us have decreased. For example, with the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya last month, the government is emphasizing how it was an attack that had been planned and plotted, not a direct result of a film that mocked Islam. The goal of the government’s response is to seek justice, not to place American lives at risk.

Though this is a step in the right direction, more work needs to be done to appease the minds of Americans. Though we must be mindful of our safety at all times, the time to obsess and worry about our welfare is over, and the time to be reasonable is now.

Kate is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]