When did America become a nation of frightened wimps?

It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority – Benjamin Franklin

When did America become a nation of frightened wimps? When did we cross the line from courage to cowardice? Was it sometime in the 1990s? After the Oklahoma City bombing? After the Columbine shootings? After 911?

When did we decide to allow the police to smash into private homes without knocking and identifying themselves? Recently, in the suburb I live in, a special police force dressed in black Nazi style uniforms busted into a suburban home without warning and dragged a school teacher out of her house with an automatic weapon at the back of her head. They forced her to the ground, handcuffed her, and hauled her away while her neighbors watched. They did it without a warrant and without consequence. Why? A misunderstanding. That is precisely why we need checks in place, to avoid misunderstandings and abuses. The police chief said, “When we realized it was a mistake, we all had a good laugh.” If a group of unidentified men dragged his wife away at gunpoint, I wonder if he would still think it was funny.

When did we decide it was okay to strip search an old lady at the airport because the pin in her hip set off the metal detector? When did we decide it was too risky to take a cup of coffee on an airplane? When did we decide it was reasonable to make a nursing mother drink her own breast milk to prove she wasn’t a terrorist? When we impose such extreme levels of security, haven’t the terrorists already won? Haven’t we willingly given our freedom to the government and the terrorists in the name of security?

When did we decide it was okay for policemen in combat boots with German Shepherds to patrol High School hallways?

When did we decide to allow routine police roadblocks? Why weren’t we outraged?

When did we decide it was too dangerous for our children to ride their bikes to school?

When did we decide it was okay for the government to seize property without a trial, without due process, at the whim of a government agency?

When did we decide that our government had a right to the fluids inside our own bodies? Or a right to the very breath in our lungs? When did we decide that it was the accused’s responsibility to prove they hadn’t been breaking the law? When did we decide that drug testing High School students was reasonable? Hell, why is it reasonable to drug test anyone – ever? Why would anybody, for any reason, have the right to invade your body without your permission?

When did we decide to give 10 year prison sentences to adolescents for having sex? Was it before or after we decided to put them in jail for smoking cigarettes and drinking beer? If my memory serves me correctly, when I was a teenager, almost everyone I knew either was doing it or wanted to do it. Why did we make what is biological and natural, criminal?

When did we decide it is too risky for 20-year-olds to drink but reasonable for them to kill and die overseas? Does that make sense to anyone?

We’ve justified every one of these injustices by claiming that it was necessary to preserve health and safety. I say bullsh!t. What is the point in being a safe slave?

I think we crossed the line somewhere between 1984 and 1988, around the time we outlawed lawn darts and every mini van in America had a ‘baby-on-board’ sign. While lawn darts and baby on board signs may seem trivial, they were warning signs of a mass shift in American values – a shift away from freedom and liberty as predominant values to health and safety as predominant values. There will be no end to the loss of freedom if we believe being healthy and safe trumps all else.

I believe there was day when most Americans accepted that life was risky. They accepted that bad things can happen to good people. They accepted that risk was an inherent part being free. They didn’t need a new law or government program every time something bad happened.

It is sad to watch our freedom slowly disappear in front of our eyes with so few people taking action.

But I have hope. I sense a shift. Something is blowing in the wind. I can smell it. I can feel it. I can see it in young people. A move away from authoritarianism – like the people that run The Free Talk Live podcast, one of the most popular podcasts in the world. The Free Talk Live podcasters make no apologies and pull no punches in their love of freedom. They tell it like it is.

He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither – Benjamin Franklin

207 thoughts on “When did America become a nation of frightened wimps?”

  1. @ Here’s this 42 year old’s checklist list of how to do that:

    I’m fairly sure that in all my time on the internet, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

  2. *snip*Recently, in the suburb I live in, a special police force dressed in black Nazi style uniforms busted into a suburban home without warning and dragged a school teacher out of her house with an automatic weapon at the back of her head. They forced her to the ground, handcuffed her, and hauled her away while her neighbors watched. They did it without a warrant and without consequence.*snip* Steve, can you give more details on this event?

  3. The “Baby on Board” sign should be taken as a warning to other drivers, that the vehicle with a “Baby on Board” will be driving more erratically due to the drivers distraction with their baby. Drivers with babies are the worst drivers!

  4. To theNrg:
    People with the most tightly closed minds tend to have the most loose lips. IE – Quit being a close minded bigot, there are many good and wise folk here. Your generalizations are brash and arrogant. Do you also think that mexicans are dumb, or the english all have bad teeth? Shit dude, try talking to people when you travel.

  5. Valerie,
    I will post some information about the police raid in my next post.

    I’ll give this whole post a bit more context.

    Chris, Derek, and others,
    You win! I’ll quit self-censoring.

    On more for the record,
    I did’t mean to say all Americans are frightened wimps, there are many that are courageous. I just feel we have been slipping over the last 20-30 years. Somedays it seems the wimps are winning, which is strange… isn’t it?

  6. After reading all of the comments (and damn, some of them could have been a bit shorter) I feel that we Americans, as citizens of our government, are like children whose mother throws us a cookie and sits us in front of the television so we get out of her hair for a while.

    I believe that our government is trying, successfully, to divert our attention away from their eradication of our freedoms to pursue its own sinister ends.

    Some of those people here, who have expressed their thoughts and outrage, are genuinely trying to stop such acts by our government and keep our freedoms intact. Others, however, are simply trying to get more cookies.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but answer me this: If the government announced a huge tax break, while at the same time 5 people were mistakenly sent to prison as terrorists, which story would get more press? Which would be blogged about and circulated more, and which would have a larger impact on your life?

  7. Glad to see this…

    Its nuts out there… they almost pretend were a new Society one that hasn’t been before. I don’t believe in the crock that is “Terrorism” that can now be designated for everything.

    Even if its true wouldn’t it be a better plan to do as before and stick to our rights? If someone does come to “terrorize” us then we’ll have out nation loving friends at hand to drag them down the street and take care of there treason, its stupid for the police to have to take care of it when I can find out own internal sources for this so called threat.

  8. Another homerun, Steve. But of course you already know that from your 160+ responses. Great Job. I’ve mentioned this article and linked to it from my latest entry.

  9. Of course, I don’t see the real reason we are in dire straits now as a nation.

    INEPT FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE LAST 50 YEARS based upon short-sighted political short term goals.

    Secret squirrels within the CIA and FBI running foreign intel ops that create coups and assassinations, nation building, and 3rd world country rape and pillaging just to maintain the status quo for the weenies who were whining when gasoline went to 50 cents a gallon in 1973.

    The war on drugs. The war on terror. The war on poverty. World bank. Big pharma. NAFTA et al. That giant sucking sound you just heard? What a short bombastic ex-presidentail front runner warned you against way back when. A nation of television watchers, drugged and cozy in their warm homes by the flickering blue box.

    The same weenies who ensured we would never get the truth about who killed JFK or why.

    The same groups who run Halliburton and KBR, Blackwater and the rest.

    THe same weenies who always seem to fund the local police for SWAT teams and new cars and hoards of equipment. The same ones who scream “zero tolerance”.

    Why – it’s me and YOU! Period.

    And just TRY to find a way to fix it now – it is designed not to be fixed from those who placed these bedrock stones in the beginning. We are doomed, and there ain’t one damned thing you can do, even if you whine.

  10. Thats sheeple not wimps, get it right.

    America land of the undereducated.

    Home of the over medicated.

    Bastion of the easily offended.

    Baaapathy pure and simple.

    Knowledge is power.

  11. Two words – ASPARTAME & FLOURIDE.

    The American public is numbed down and dumbed down from the food they injest to the drugs they consume daily for a wide variety of reasons. That’s why they’re not storming the streets in Washington or the halls of Congress demanding that these criminal bastards cease emasculating the Constitution and the Bill of FORMER Rights.

  12. Great post! To me, we really began to jettison our freedoms around 1984 (George Orwell’s year, fittingly) as your post states. As for the “Baby on Board” thing, I remember another placard that was popular then, too: “Ex-Wife in Trunk”. Sexist, but a hilarious piece of satire.

  13. Um … though I agree with your concern over trading false security for true freedom, I do wonder how you can rant about Americans becoming wimpy when you type “sh!t” instead of “shit” because you are afraid of Yahoo — do you not see wome irony here?

  14. good question steve!

    i do not know exactly when this happened, but i would disagree with you all.

    it happened a long time ago i would guess.

    does the “audacity” to nuke japanese CIVILIANS to avoid alleged death of american SOLDIERS count?

    america never was an extraordinary brave society.

    you mix up bravery with violence.

    VIOLENCE, that is what america stands and stood for through all history.

    maybe it started already from the wimps which fled europe to live free, because it was much more easy to kill the red man and have a whole continent to rape then to fight the power in their home to make a better world for more people then oneself.

    somethings i would like to adress:

    nynerd Says:
    “…
    But other than that I agree 100%, Nazi Germany took similar steps as it got more and more extreme and nobody stepped up and said something.
    …”

    germany was in a different situation quite contrarily to the situation of a WORLDPOWER for 80 Years now.

    ridiculous to assume the german followed the guy with the ugly beard because the were unfoundedly feared of something.

    but i know, the word Nazi looks so good, so just use use use it.

    (btw i still try to figure out, who invented the Abbrevation NAZI. if it comes from germany it should be something like NASO from NAtionalSOzialist? i guess that did not sound bad enough in the propaganda for the “german huns”.)

    Scott Davis Says:

    “…
    What has become of the nation whose soldiers fought along Canada’s soldiers for the liberation of Europe? Where is that glorious bravery that Americans have always shown by stepping forward when there is a a call for help?
    …”

    is this a joke?
    liberation of europe?
    the people which lived 50 years behind the iron curtain may have another opinion on that (yes, they were, are and will be europeans no matter what rotten system they live in).

    i think you are one to say, the germans were liberated too (and it must be right, we have “liberation” day every year at 08.05.).

    glorious bravery – US Soldiers?
    they did not have a chance to do that very often (D-Day? think again before using that!) because the US industry has one all modern wars for the USA not the soldiers.
    after all, the US ARMY was and is the most cowardly army in modern time and america NEVER had sufficent loss of the own people.

    just to get this straight, i am talking about the instituion “US Army” not neccesarily of the soldiers itself. there were brave men fighting for amercia but the leadership sucked all the way up and still does (as it is true for the most countries in this world).

    disestablishmentarian Says:
    “…
    This post is dangerous thinking. The last group of people who weren’t frightened wimps, who had the guts to fight for freedom were the Confederacy, and although they were doing it for reasons that we find repugnant today (namely slavery, I support States Rights though), they weren’t afraid to die for their beliefs.
    …”

    i would agree with the first part of the message. the confederation maybe were not the cleverst people of all, but they were brave, no question about that.

    yes, there was bravery even in the history of the US.
    but not in modern times!
    in modern times there is only the lie and nothing but the lie.
    and the americans loved to hear about time and time again (maybe a nice barBQ and a football show to swallow it more easy;-).

    sounds negative?
    that is because the world today is a bucket of shit and the americans have a big part of it filled (after the europeans started it all, of course).

    THIS IS HISTORY NOT “HIS STORY”!

    but there is hope and all of it is in america and its people.
    you have had a very nice constituion and you are not willing to give it up like that.
    i see more and more americans awake and given the violent history over there, i would not fell to comfortable as a part of the ruling class right now.

    come on guys, get the executive marching on your side and the rulers have nobody left to shoot at you (i know, they want to have more mercaneries and soldiers from different countries and THAT will be really dangerous business!).

    dont you think that a lot of the policemen, soldiers and whoever has to work for the supression of the free begin to think it might be something wrong with their jobs and how the future might look like for them.

    do not forget that policemen ARE NOT the ruling class (at least not the one which has the order to shoot at the demonstrator in the street).

    go get your executive-people and tell them to make their decision by thinkin not following orders which might be illegal anyway.
    (now you may come up with nazi-germany, if you have to, to feel better : )

    come on boys and girls, show the world that you are awake now and you want let it be like it is.

    WORLDREVOLUTION NOW !

    YOU START IT AND THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD WILL COME TO YOUR SIDE IN NO TIME AT ALL!

  15. The semblance of caring is the sales pitch. The lack of caring is the truth. The swirl of distraction is the shell game your watching while your wallet is pick-pocketed and your your screams are silenced by someone trying to warn you that your wallet might be pick-pocketed. It is, of itself, it’s own reason for existing. Can’t figure it out? Is that what all the question marks are about? Guess what…you’re not supposed to and you never will. The big conspiracy is that there never was one. There isn’t some multi-level, multi-national conspiracy towards any end…only toward keeping us from learning that it’s all made up as it goes on. It’s become so convoluted that it can never be unraveled and we are too arrogant to admit defeat and start again. We are too greedy to risk losing what we’ve worked for, despite the nagging feeling of impending doom that any intelligent human has when pondering the future of our our race.

    Humanity lost it’s way once we stopped slaughtering our own food; started calling steer meat “beef” and pig meat “pork,” and packaged it for us under shiney cellophane. It made us feel guilty about killing for our own survival. But we ARE killers, so we turn our nature against ourselves. We trade true “survival-of-the-fittest” instinct in for capitalist drive. Those who feel it most palpably, and know that they will never succeed at, or assimilate into, that mentality go on killing sprees. As long as we are willing to consume the flesh of another being without having the courage and respect enough to kill it, we will always be lazy, crybaby, cowards…who would rather leave the dirty work to someone else. And as long as we are THAT, we are doomed.

    As long as we allow ourselves to be bombarded with everyone elses opinions on a seemingly non-stop basis, is as long as we keep ourselves from forming our own opinions. There is too much opinion being paraded around as fact. This was LONG ago described as “The Allegory of the Cave.” (ggogle that!) Put down the newspaper, shut off your TV, cancel your Internet, and go fucking do something about the injustice you see. Shout your dissent from the rooftops!

    “This,” he says, “is the price some pay for a simle life.”

    I am no longer willing to pay that price. If you aren’t either, then stop being afraid. Life is short for us as individuals, and as proportionally short for us as humanity.

    DO something or shut the f–k up! Vote! Convince others to do the same! Learn about Proportional Representation! Don’t accept the status quo because it’s the easier, softer way. DO SOMETHING!

  16. I think it all came about when America realized it had the money and resources to have almost perfectly impervious security. After Americans started spending large amounts of money on security, they wanted to get their money’s worth out of their security systems, and they realized they couldn’t do that until they gave up the freedoms in the way of their systems. They came to a point where they literally had to choose.
    They made the wrong choice.
    Another example you never mentioned is the automatic knife, more commonly known as the switchblade. If you don’t know, its essentially a folding knife that folds automatically. Nothing more. Nada. But its illegal to buy, sell, possess, or transport an automatic knife through many states if you’re a civilian! The tool was originally made for people who had jobs that required the ability to open a knife quickly with only one hand, but it was given a bad rap by gang violence. There really isn’t anything about it more dangerous than a steak knife, but they still let us keep our steak knives. For now, at least.

  17. Didn’t read any of the comments but read all the post. I’m not an American and have never been there but should say that much, same story goes on all around the world at the moment.

    In the country (don’t wana give the name) where i’m living now, i’m slightly darker than average and when i moved over here about 7 months ago, there were an international meeting and i got a call from some “official”, saying better if i don’t go out while there’s the meeting.No matter I have several degrees, speak several languages, never involved in any crime in any country i’ve been, including native.Probably every dark person, not any darker than a spanish by the way, is potential terrorist.

    To be honest to everyone who reads this comment, back then and still at the moment, my mind cannot get such a treatment in 21st century.

    When i was teenager, we had encouraged for free thinking, free speaking and most important is trusting to people. But I see in nowadays,people are pushed to be conservative, religious and trusting nobody.

    My mind can get non of these bull shits! I just hope, situation will change soon to better for all of us.

  18. You are asking the wrong question:

    But I will engage in your stupid quest! When? When we allowed people like Bill Clinton into the Whitehouse, during which time a myriad of security breaches were done; and the family unit was attacked.

    The results? I will volunteer anyone in my family or yours to make sure that there is safety in this country!

    If you don’t like it, L.E.A.V.E.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. >When did we decide it is too risky for 20-year-olds to drink but reasonable for them to kill and die overseas? Does that make sense to anyone?

    I joined the Marines when I was 17 (got an emancipation waiver, yay).

    I asked, “Can I buy a beer?” Answer: No.
    I asked, “Can I buy a handgun?” Answer: No.
    (and even voting was tricky at that time)

    But I did go overseas, and they did give me a rifle, and I did work with explosives, and I did get medals for being in combat situations, and I very well could have gotten my head blown off.
    (and, theoretically, I could have gotten arrested for having sex, and, if with someone 18+, that person would have been considered a rapist (not sure how the emancipation would have worked, though))

    I’m sure glad my interests were protected. Thanks, Government!

  20. If you hate America and everything it stands for, shown by half your blogs, why don’t you just move to another country? It’s that freaking simple. I despise nothing more than people who complain about everything in America, yet refuse to do anything about it but complain on a blog.

    I am assuming you will delete this comment as soon as you find it, but that’s fine with me. I just want to get my message across to you: If you don’t like America, that’s fine. But how about instead of bitching about it, just leave. That’s easy enough, isn’t it? Just leave.

  21. alex says if we don’t like america the way it is then move, well if he likes a faciast state then let him move to one of many countrys over seas where he will feel right at home and let my country be free the way the constitution and bill of rights says it should be

  22. Steve! your blog is tight man!! i love this.. your right about alot of things.. things are crazy in America right now.. the government is paranoid right now because of all the terrorism.. but what else can they do? they have to be careful and on the lookout…

    as far as your view on society goes.. I think society made the country this way… it’s like a big loop.. the law is strict as hell now.. they think they can solve all the violence and law-breaking by getting stricter.. and that’s the worst thing to do.. i have a scenario:

    we got low-income citizens selling drugs and robbing each other so they can feed their kids and pay rent… if the government would focus more on helping these people (helping with jobs, raising minimum wage, health care, etc..), rather than trying to extinguish the them, it would be a whole lot better.. there would be less rebellion to the government and the crime rate would decrease.. the dope-dealers and law-breakers are human.. they have feelings too.. but the government only sees the exterior… it’s a damn shame…..

    anyway, i knid of got off subject and rambled..

  23. Without fear, there would be no complicity!!! We have become a nation of whimps because we are afraid – of everything!!! How fortunate for our governments, that the people they administer do not think!!” Fear controls our thinking. Therefore, we become controlled!!

    Great site!!! It is time to make a change . . it is time to make our voices heard.

  24. Good point Steve! I believe the hypocricy of this great nation is what makes us unwilling participants in the imperialism of our current ruler, oops, I mean President. This nation was founded by people escaping from tyranical rule and forced religion. However, today we are still fighing for our “rights” to worship, say, and do what we want as stated in the D. of I., and the Constitution. The topics of the presidential race have no relevance in politics. Abortion, stem-cell research, sexual orientation have no place on the soap-box. I could give a rat’s ass if they shot a deer while assisting the suicide of their debilitated mother and making arrangements with their mistress. They should be figuring out an alternate source of fuel, the cessation of global warming, and figuring out the healthcare crisis. I’m sick of these so called “blue-blood” leaders who have cheated, lied, and manipulated the American population to achieve status. Just b/c my great, great, great, great grandfather wasn’t a bootlegger (see Joe Kennedy) doesn’t mean that I, you, us as a nation, do not deserve what they all get. We have let the moral majority into the highest position in our land and look what it’s gotten us. A war of god’s in the Middle East. Tens of thousands of our fellow Americans are injured in some horrific way or another, thousands are dead, and over 1 million Iraqi citizens have died at the hands of Bush and his crusade. We saw Nixon resign over Watergate, Clinton impeached (on paper) for a blow-job, and yet somehow, Bush is in his second term and continues to proliferate the hatred of America to every nation on Earth. I agree with you, there is a new wind approaching, my worry is that it’s not just another load of p.c., moral majority bullshit!

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  26. that Ben Franklin quote isn’t right. here’s the correct version:

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

  27. Well i would like to just say! yes we live in a damn pussy country! everyone is afraid of the Government. No one is really doing anything to change it. theres Corruption everywhere. Damn Conservatives ruin this great country. theres no true freedom of speech. but its the conditioning from the Government that made it this way.

    im so embarrassed to be an American nowadays. that if things dont change soon, i actually plan on moving to another country.

    im sorry. but ive tried so hard (as one person) to change things…

  28. It’s because people are too self-involved and stupid to realize that the world around them is crumbling. Hardly anyone is willing to learn about their government and world history enough to see the patterns. And the religious morons just sit back and pray for Armageddon, when baby Jesus will descend from the heavens and take them to their heavenly palace that has 2 gold hummers in every garage and maid service 3 times a week. Why worry that the earth is dying when your eternal land of plenty is just around the corner?

    The reigns have been handed over to corporate interests and their selected “leaders”. And they don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. It’s time for someone who represents real leadership to kick those sorry-assed reactionary whores in Washington in the balls and time for the people to wake up and take their country back.

    There have been some great points brought up here. I hope this is a growing trend of awakening that won’t just die out or be forgotten.

    I think the only man that’s willing and able to save us from this mass stupidity is Ron Paul. The others just don’t seem to have a clue.

  29. Which president wanted to open all mail from Americans to foreigners just to “protect” our security? Why, that would have been Washington. When did police routinely use rubber hoses, brass knuckles, and the like to beat confessions out of suspects? Why, that would have been from the birth of the nation until relatively recently. During which war did our military see one of the highest “wimpout” rates of desertion? Actually, pretty much all of them. But WWll desertion rates were higher than ‘Nam and Iraq. Civil War had pretty high desertion rates, also. Yes, there’s been a lot of wrong headed “protect the citizen from himself” legislation in the last few years. There’s been a strong lean toward socialism. That has a tendency to breed bad times. But the pendulum is swinging back. Real republicanism, not the sham, religious socialism called republicanism we are seeing today, will come back and the radical religious right (RRR) can go back to the democratic party where they belong.

  30. To Joseph Hartman:

    Wow, you’ve swallowed the partisan bullshit hook like and sinker. The problem here goes beyond just these two parties. There are plenty of instances out there of the republicans sitting on their hands just as badly with regard to terrorism. Oh wait…when did we finance the Taliban? The 80’s? during perhaps the most republican time in our history? Oops!

  31. Okay, America has grown weak (frightened wimps). What nation/state/empire hasn’t? I think our government is often incompetent and in imminent danger of becoming a fascist theocracy. Okay so we’re assholes internationally. Fine but what would our critics be like if their respective countries became the dominant world power tomorrow? Oh I’m sure they’d do much better. Right Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, etc. Okay, America’s reign is over you say, well who’s gonna step up now? I hope you are fucking happy with the results.

  32. the english have UNTIL WE ARE CORNERED but we have been behind are great leader AMERica who are and have let us down!! ye are perthetic and embarising…. what a SAD nation

  33. I just wanted to say that, more than two years later, this is still a very relevant post. I believe that much of this fear stems from the “Baby Boomers” who now fear their own mortality. When they were younger the world was their oyster and now, for many, it’s beginning to draw to a close.

    In addition, the media is capitalizing on these fears. In the 1980’s the advertising phrase was “Sex Sells”. In the new millennium, it’s “Fear Sells”. Fear sells advertising in the news (it’s a wonder we’re not all dead from the bird flu, SARS or H1N1 yet), fear in advertising (home security, life insurance, and my favorite “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) and even our television shows all educate us on what we need to be afraid of next.

    People have to stop behaving like sheep and start living again in the scary, unpredictable world.

  34. Well said, Steve Olson. America has become a nation of frightened wimps and it’s pretty pathetic. You are right though, we are seeing a turn of the tide, I believe, where people are standing up and not allowing their liberties to be diluted any longer.

    Well said!

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