History Module: The Long History of the Culture of Fear in the United States

Certain historic events, while they may not fully explain the origins of the culture of fear in the United States, do shed a great deal of light on it. Here are a few such events:

- In just 86 years, from the start of the American Revolution in 1775 to the start of the Civil War in 1861, the country’s slave population rose from 700 000 to 4 million. In certain farming areas of the South, there were three times as many blacks as whites, and there were numerous slave uprisings. The whites began to fear that the blacks might win their freedom.

- In 1836, Samuel Colt invented the six-shooter revolver. Before then, no gun could ever fire more than one shot at a time. For the preceding 10 000 years, whatever kind of weapon someone was using, they always had to reload it before they could fire it again. The Colt revolver was cheap to buy and easy to carry. All the whites in the South started buying this weapon, which they called "The Peacemaker". That is how they managed to keep slavery going for another 25 years.

- Then the U.S. Army started to buy Colt revolvers too. Over the following 40 years, they were able to wipe out the Indians, whose only firearms were single-shot rifles.

- In 1865, when the South lost the Civil War, its white population was truly terrified, the Ku Klux Klan made its appearance. In 1871, the Klan was declared illegal.

- A few months later, another organization was formed: the National Rifle Association (NRA). Its mission was to ensure that only whites would be allowed to own firearms. Blacks were forbidden to do so.

- Thus, for the next 80 years, firearms were used to keep the freed blacks in their place. Things did not change until the 1950s, when blacks rebelled against this state of affairs. Terrified, many whites fled to the suburbs where, once they were well entrenched, they began to buy millions and millions of firearms.

- And that is the situation in the United States today. Most of the 250 million firearms in circulation in the U.S. are owned by whites living in quiet neighbourhoods where they are almost never subjected to violence. On the contrary, most murders are committed by the victims’ relatives or acquaintances–husbands, wives, lovers, co-workers, and so on.


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