Gary Horton: Hope dies, fear is reborn


As Carrie and I walked along the Santa Barbara marina waterfront nine years ago we encountered an anti-Iraq War II protest. Thousands of small white crosses had been placed into a park lawn like a miniature national cemetery.

Folks carrying signs protested the Iraq War, the loss of good men, the utter waste of so much that was happening. The message was clear: Combat fear, end war, restore peace and sanity.

Barack Obama was emerging as the candidate of “Hope” and “Yes we can.” He was eloquent, civil, and rational.

His message ran 180 degrees counter to the Bush-Cheney fear-mongering that had Americans cowering in their homes, terrified of Iraqi “yellow cake.”

This concocted enemy had “mobile weapons labs,” and we were instructed to duct tape our windows to keep the anthrax out. And then there was Katrina and all that, and the economy was in a full death spiral.

Fear reigned supreme back then and Americans were scared. You may remember those very dark days. I can’t forget them.

Back then, I wrote a column titled “Birth of hope, death of fear.” Obama was promising a return to civility, and like him or hate him, his White House provided that decorum, calmness and rationality.

Over time things stabilized and – although conflict remained between entrenched Republicans and a progressive White House, actions were predictable and reasonable, and one could go to bed knowing you would wake up to predictable headlines and, most likely, an incrementally better America than the day before.

Gone were those manipulative “Terror Alerts” with their red, orange, yellow warnings. Gone were airplanes crashing into towers.

Gone were Saudis blithely hopscotching through our country, committing the worst terror attack ever perpetrated against America.

Instead, Osama Bin Laden met his fate. Every morning you woke up feeling a hell of a lot safer than you had for years before, and for eight years we overwhelmingly repelled foreign invaders attacking our homeland.

If you appreciated that calm, forget about it now. We’re making enemies like Sparkletts makes friends. If you preferred civility, toss out that treat.

Liked rationality? That’s so yesterday! Respected competence? Fire ‘em in favor of blind or blood loyalty. There’s a new kick-ass boss-man in town and he anchors wide, displays shock and awe, and tears up the china shop with a bloviated bully act designed to stoke fear into advisories.

Again there’s “change” in America, but this time it’s change from hope to fear.

While Trump has already caused innumerable self-inflicted gunshots to our national head, there’s an even greater concern going forward: It’s how he’s swinging his wrecking balls that’s so troubling.

Trump’s chaos, confusion, misdirection and delusion have those “in the know” not knowing at all if he’s deranged, misinformed or worse – extremely calculating for maximum manipulation.

For few things are more malleable and controllable than fearful, cowering people, scared to death of terrifying, faceless, placeless enemies.

Kellyanne Conway “rips the press a new one” for coverage Trump doesn’t like. Steve Bannon tells the media to “just keep their mouths shut.” Trump calls CNN “fake news.”

Press suppression, just days in. The media is labeled “the opposition.” It took Nixon years to get there – and we know how that ended.

Chief strategist and propagandist Steve Bannon elbows into the “Principles Committee” of the National Security Council while inexplicably, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence are displaced. Past National Security Advisor Susan Rice calls this “stone cold crazy.” Leon Panetta and Josh Bolton agree.

Bush II casually disregarded emails provided by the Intelligence Community and jetliners crashed into our towers. Placing political strategists on security councils while sidelining those in the know is Bush II déjà vu.

Get out the Xanax – this will be an orchestrated, terrifying ride with self-deluded amateur hour actors at the wheel.

Trump’s biggest concern, Days 1-3? The size of the crowd at the Capital Mall. “Mine has to be bigger than yours” as Trump demanded the National Parks to produce photos more favorable than Obama’s.

Fixated on losing by 2.8 million popular votes, Trump insists over and again, “I won in a landslide – if you don’t count the millions of illegal voters.”

Appreciated humility? Today you get delusions of grandeur pulling on those levers of ultimate power.

We’ve launched a needless war of words against Mexico with no benefit other than irritating intimidation and red meat tossed to Midwestern bigots. Trump sees wins in intentionally insulting allied nations.

Our past president won a Nobel Peace Prize. Now, we’ll be international pariahs after this immigration ban.

Calm is now cataclysmically displaced by chaos. Peace of mind murdered by fear of a destabilizing everything.

“Hope and change” is cruelly morphed to “change and shut up.”

For those with memories to serve, all this ill-considered chaotic disruption bodes very poorly for America’s peace and well-being.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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