A nation in fear

Look at the United States. Really. Look at it.

From north to south, east to west; from “sea to shining sea,” you’ll see the frenzy of fear. Fear of Ebola. Fear of ISIS. Fear of “crime.” Fear of — fear.

The reason?

Well, fear sells. It sells papers, attracts viewers and pulls listeners. The national media are a virtual fear industry. There used to be an old adage in TV news: “If it bleeds, it leads.” There is so much fear in this country that it can barely breathe.

And for politicians, that’s fine, for they know that fear is fuel — a power unto itself that can be ridden, like a maddened steed, to power.

Two nurses catch the Ebola virus (and this only because they weren’t properly protected) and schools are closed, quarantine orders are issued, and sheer, unadulterated hysteria, hyped by ratings-hungry media, travels the land like a flood.

Much of American history may be seen as frenzies of fear, which, once unleashed, drove social policies that often did more harm than that which was first feared.

The fears of Salem ignited wars against witches and monstrous tortures of women. The fears of Black slave rebellions led to waves of repression and racist violence.

The fear of the ability of drugs to expand minds led to the so-called “war on drugs,” which fed a prison-industrial complex that swept millions into the biggest prison boom in history, with little, if any, effect on drug usage.

Fear. Frenzy. Fuels for media and politicians. And ­disaster.