Carnegie Mellon University

Fear, anger, and uncertainty

May 06, 2020

Fear, anger, and uncertainty

By Eli Rose

During serious international challenges, fear, anger, and uncertainty push Americans to give up too much encroachment on their civil freedoms.

The nationalistic ideal that Americans hold onto due to the country’s status as a global hegemon is often put to test when there is an international battle or emergency. The government’s response to events like the Cold War, 9/11, and Covid-19 has been to repress civil liberties and freedoms in order to ensure national safety. What follows is an American response of mixed emotions, but no emotions are more prevalent during national emergencies than fear and anger. Due to this whirlwind of emotions the American population, in general, allows too much encroachment on their civil liberties and other freedoms. 

The Red Scare, which came as a response to ongoing tensions with the Soviet Union, is a prime example of encroachment on civil liberties. Fear of the Communist enemy led American legislators to step beyond their limitations set by the civil liberties granted in the Constitution and accused government officials of being members of the Communist party, which resulted in them losing their jobs. This kind of behavior demonstrates the racism and oppression that was used as a tool to defend the country from the opposition who were attempting to take down democracy. Even though at the time many American citizens were on board with expelling Communist thought from the United States, certain moves, such as those made by Joseph McCarthy, are seen as too much of a breach against freedoms.

On September 11, 2001 the United States was attacked by al Qaeda. This kind of terrorism hit so close to home that the American people were left frightened, angry and uncertain about what they should expect next. The Global War on Terrorism came soon after and American troops were sent to Afghanistan, in a war that was compared by activists to the Vietnam War. Similar to the results of the Cold War, fear led to the infringement on civil liberties such as the chilling effect on the freedom of speech, association rights, and religious freedoms.

As seen in the previous two examples, the current battle against Covid-19 proves that Americans allow too much infringement on their civil liberties. While the security of the nation is important to protect the country from more deaths, certain measures and rules against the operation of nonessential businesses have cost the American people freedoms that they were previously granted. The encroachment is well justified by the government for their purposes of containment, but American industries are beginning to die and nationwide unemployment is a penalty that has been associated with the restricting of freedoms.