The United States has always had its arch-bogeymen. Ambiguous, ill-defined creatures lurking back in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to pounce when we show the slightest sign of vulnerability. Those who envy our freedom and wealth and are just lusting to deprive us of our hard-earned life, liberty and happiness. They will stop at nothing. Evil exists. You are not safe. You are not secure. There is a war to be won or we will die, and our precious way of life will vanish. Fall in line or pay the consequences.

Whether it was the "damnable Indians" on the frontier, the commie-pinko agitators and subversives of the McCarthy-era itching for Stalin to press the red button, or the al-Qaedas and ISISes of today who just inherently hate everything about the West for no discernible reason, America has had an ever-evolving enemy-at-the-gates since it was founded. A threat that must be confronted with everything we can muster. In short - America has always had something to fear.

Perhaps that's inherent in any collective of human beings, and there will necessarily be "outsiders" in order to define who are the "insiders" - those who are deserving of the fruits of liberty and the American dream.

Fear is a great way to motivate and manipulate people, and those in power know this. They can whip the media into a frothy-mouthed frenzy at the drop of a semi-credible intelligence source. Didn't you hear that they've got nukes? WMDs? "Sleeper-cells"? This is no time to relax and enjoy time with loved ones! I think I vaguely remember hearing something last week about some foiled plot by some shady operative of some Arab-sounding terrorist organization that was only narrowly averted because of the diligence of Homeland Security. Thank God. Didn't you know that the terror-alert level is orange today? Better go shopping.

Gas is only $3.00 a gallon, at least that's good news. The Dow Jones Industrial average is 17,000! Better party while we can! Freedom is conditional, earned through one's participation in the consumer economy. An outsider is anyone who cannot or will not participate either because of ethnicity, poverty, disability status, or ideological conviction. An enemy is anyone who wants to stop the economy or change it. Whoever they are, they are dangerous, and you should be afraid. Be very afraid.

There is a flaw in this strategy, however, a fatal flaw. That flaw is that there can only be one arch bogeyman at a time. It would sound absurd nowadays to say that you're keeping your rifle clean because Geronimo is barefooting it through the woods just out of sight with his scalping tomahawk in hand. Karl Marx is no longer regarded as an actual threat so much as a misguided malcontent with equally misguided followers. The Soviet Union is no longer. Socialism is a tried-and-failed ideology espoused by liberal blow-hards with nothing better to do than inflate their own intellectual egos with hot air. It has no teeth. The childish naiveté of socialists is a never-ending source of inflammatory entertainment on social media. How endearing is their insistence that there is more to human nature than the profit motive! If anything, it's rather cute. You know, I bet Marx's beard would have made him a hit with the ladies these days!
Terrorism, however, is alive and well. We are still fighting a war with no attainable goals against a diffuse and ever-changing enemy with no identifiable geographic location. Yesterday it was Iraq, today Syria, tomorrow Iraq again, next week maybe here. Whoever, wherever, and whatever, the threat is not important. What's important is that there is a threat. Currently that threat is terrorism and the loosely organized Islamic state. We are on guard against it. Inevitably, someday there will be another bogeyman, and the hooded brown-people on grainy footage with AK-47s decapitating journalists will be just as quaint a threat as socialists and native peoples are today. We will long for the good old days when all we had to worry about were the terrorists. Who knows what the threat of tomorrow will be. The Russians? Genetically unmodified children?

The ingenuity about the terrorist threat is that its definition is so broad that it can be applied to anyone. Rioters in Baltimore, Occupiers in New York City. Call 'em terrorists and that should get 'em to shut up. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib await! Perhaps terrorism will be the threat way into the future.

Fortunately, the fear mongers cannot demonize too many groups simultaneously, or they risk losing their tenuous control of the masses.

Many people today openly strive to live in harmony with nature as the Native Americans once did, and this is not considered a threat to our way of life - naive and idealistic, but not a real threat. Socialism is openly discussed and inequality lamented, and this is not seen as a threat to our way of life - naive and idealistic, but hardly a real threat. Now that the spotlight of state-sanctioned violence is pointed elsewhere, these other ideologies are gaining a foothold once again, and this is not a bad thing.

Maybe it's time we learn to see the wisdom in the Native American way of life and in the stability and high quality of life in the socialist democracies around the world (mainly in Scandinavia). Dare I venture that it's time that we have a presidential candidate who once would have exemplified the degenerate fringe of American society - a Birkenstock-wielding, comb-lacking Jew who rants on C-SPAN for hours on end with a hilarious New York accent? Is this country ready for Bernie Sanders?

Yes, I say. Yes it is. He's the only one who's suggesting we look at structural problems within our own society and address those problems before we go about fixing the rest of the world's problems. It's time to turn the focus inward.... 9/11 was 14 years ago. It's time to move on.

Grayson Lookner grew up in Camden and now lives in Portland.