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Adam M. Garfinkle (born 1 June 1951) is an American writer and is the founding editor of The American Interest, a bimonthly public policy magazine. He was previously editor of The National Interest. He has been a university teacher and a staff member at high levels of the U.S. government. He was a speechwriter to more than one U.S. Secretary of State.
Be Afraid? Yes, But Don't Overdo It (2018)
- "Be Afraid? Yes, But Don't Overdo It" (29 October 2018), The American Interest
- [G]un control advocates seem to be under the impression that governments can pass new felony legislation that will take guns off the streets without requiring more aggressive policing, without putting more people in prison...
- Gun control and tough-on-crime politics are two sides of the same coin. If governments are serious about cracking down on illegal guns in a meaningful way, they will need to use all of the same tools that they used to crack down on crime from the 1970s onward—tough criminal penalties (i.e., long prison sentences for offenders) and aggressive policing...
- [A]s Reason's A. Barton Hinkle pointed out, New York’s notorious stop-and-frisk policies, which left-wing mayor Bill DeBlasio led the charge against, was arguably one of the most effective gun control policies in the country.
- [A]ll the evidence suggests that stricter gun laws would fall disproportionately on the same people who have always bear the brunt of tough criminal justice policies.
- [S]ocially liberal gun control champions don’t see themselves as pushing policies that would abet racial profiling or worsen the problem of mass incarceration. They see themselves as going after their political enemies—socially conservative white men in red states.
- [F]ew intelligent observers are under any illusions that this type of symbolic half-measure on gun control would meaningfully cut into America’s gun violence statistics. Meaningfully reducing gun violence in a nation with 300 million guns would probably require the type of confiscatory gun regulations enacted in Australia and some European countries. And the mechanics of enacting such policies could well contradict the vision for police and prison reform that has been gaining momentum on the left and right alike over the past year.
- [T]errorism has rattled us, starting with 9/11 but continuing through lesser forms of murder and mayhem ever since—the kind perpetrated by radical Muslims via internet indoctrination (for example, Ft. Hood, Boston Marathon, San Bernardino, Orlando) and the more nativist kind perhaps more so (for example, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Dylann Roof, Stephen Paddock, and, just this past week, Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers). Terrorism does its damage not mainly through body counts but by undermining the social trust that keeps communities engaged, united, and optimistic. The bureaucratized paranoia we have allowed to develop as a consequence hasn’t helped in the least—“If you see something, say something” spoken a hundred million times a day across the country by our now ubiquitous automatonic ghosts. By essentially reminding people of the real prospect of mass murder several times a day, it’s been on balance counterproductive as well as very expensive.
- [B]roken families produce more insecure children; kids who feel emotionally betrayed by those who are supposed to love and protect them often grow into insecure adults, replicating insecurity by often failing to form secure loving bonds. Deep-seated insecurity is a host on which fear feeds, and so is the loneliness that is often the result of a love-deprived life. Unfortunately, American family life has been hurting now for some time, especially among lower socio-economic cohorts under growing economic pressure.
- [S]ince fear is ubiquitous, every civilization has devised ways to manage it. That has typically been accomplished in the context of religious culture. Dangers are easier to cope with for most people when they are seen as something other than completely random and meaningless, when they are integrated into shared narratives that make a certain kind of emotional sense. When traditional religious templates erode, as they have in most Western societies in recent times, the frameworks that control the psycho-social impact of fear erode with them. They have been replaced, in a manner of speaking, with the pseudo-religion of the therapeutic, whose obsession with absolute security has only served to make nearly everyone more anxious, not less.
- [F]earful societies—and American society obviously isn’t the only example—develop markets for fear abatement. The most effective way for political entrepreneurs to tap into such markets is to focus on what or, better, who to blame for what makes people afraid. The simpler the depiction of fear’s source the better for the would-be political hustler. No matter how varied and interactively complex the real sources of fear and insecurity may be, rattled people are easily manipulated by demagogues offering parsimonious, emotion-driven conflations—say, about “carnage” caused by immigrants.
- [W]e have become so beset with ambient fear in recent decades that Donald Trump’s rise to the White House would be inexplicable without it. Too many people, abetted by the media, focus on the man: That’s a mistake. The proper focus needs to be on what has happened to our culture that has allowed a man like that to become President—and what it may lead to next.
- [D]emocracy is not in imminent jeopardy but American liberal democracy—predicated on the rule of law, individual rights, and tolerance for dissent—does seem up for grabs in a way it has never been in my lifetime. The willful trashing of U.S. postwar grand strategy takes us anew into a world based not on a U.S.-led Western rules-based order, but on a ragged concert of great powers with zones of influence in which power-based relationships alone define relations between big and small nations. We’ve been there before and we’re still here to tell of it—but earlier epochs of balance-of-power realism did not proceed in a world with nuclear weapons.
- [S]hould we be afraid? Yes. But understand that what we think we fear may not exhaust its real sources.
- [F]ear is necessary, for without it we become passive victims of our own bewilderment. We can still work our way out of the mess we’re in, with fear as our fuel. But to do that we must understand and tame our fear, not let it drive us crazy—even despite events like Saturday’s murder of eleven Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue. For many people, naturally enough, the difference can sometimes be a thin line.
- Encyclopedic article on Adam Garfinkle on Wikipedia