Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

I choose not to live in fear. It’s amazing how many people don’t even realize they have this choice. But, even more amazing is the number of people that opt out of that choice. Have you noticed how much the news is dominated by crisis after crisis? Every other headline seems to focus on the next big adult equivalent of a monster in the closet, or boogeyman under the bed.

Terrorism, global warming, healthcare, financial collapse, unemployment, education… there isn’t a single major issue around that isn’t reported as being at DEFCON 1, with alarms sounding and lights flashing in desperate warning. “If we don’t recycle, the icecaps will melt, the seas will rise and people will die! If we don’t mandate health insurance, costs will go up, people go untreated and die! If we don’t bailout banks, car companies, mortgage holders, etc, people will go broke, become homeless… and probably die!!!”

So, what’s the next threat to this fragile world on the edge of destruction? Apparently, it’s my wife. All five foot-nine, hundred-something pounds of her. She doesn’t own a gun, isn’t that athletic, and I don’t think she’s ever thrown a punch in her life, but several members of the House and Senate seem to think that she’s a potential powder keg simply because she’s a member of a local Tea Party. That’s right, “Run for your lives! She watches Glenn Beck!”

With all the turmoil on Capitol Hill, there is a renewed focus on Terrorism, not just globally but locally. Yet, I don’t need any statistics or federal reports to know what’s really going on in our society; there are bad people in this world. Shocking, isn’t it. But wait, there’s more; no matter what you do, you can’t stop these people from doing evil things. Whether that be throwing bricks through your window or arming for a potential assault.

I’m not saying what some radicals on both sides of the issues are doing isn’t wrong, I just think it’s important to point out that regardless of what you do, evil exists and evil will always find a reason to do bad things.

But don’t despair, this isn’t a reason to panic, this is a plea to focus once again on the first two words in the initial sentence. I choose not to live in fear. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things in this world to be afraid of. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take certain precautions. It means that I choose not to let those societal imperfections keep me from living the life I want, and acting in a means more befitting my age and education.

Legislation doesn’t stop crime, it only forces criminals to change their methods. FAA regulations didn’t keep terrorists from flying planes into the World Trade Center and Guns were not permitted on the campus of Virginia Tech prior to the shootings. Metal detectors don’t stop people from being stabbed and nothing you do to restrict free speech or control public protests will eliminate any underlying hate, or rid the world of anger.

But, if you fear crime, you’re already a victim. And those who fear irrational behavior are more susceptible to exhibiting it themselves. And this is why, dangerous or not, fear is front and center in most political debate.  And this is also why people like Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel suggest you should, “Never waste a good crisis.” Whether you fear something or not does not make you any more or less susceptible to being affected by it. But fear can go a long way to getting you to act in a manner outside of your normal comfort zone.

How many Senators admitted openly that they were opposed to the recent Health Care bill, but that, “Something HAD to be done,”? Fear of consequences, whether real or perceived, forced them into action, whether or not that action had any positive effects or not. And fear is also their convenient excuse if things don’t go as planned. When the stimulus bill didn’t deliver the desired effect on the unemployment rate, did you hear anyone say, “Oops, maybe we were wrong,”? No, instead, we got even more distress; “It was a bigger problem than we thought,” or “Well, if we didn’t act immediately it would have been worse.”

Terrorists use fear to get you to act irrationally, politicians use fear to get you to vote irrationally. But both want you to replace thoughtful debate and logical inquiry with an impassioned desire to leap before you look, because more often than not, they already have a desired course of action laid out, but it’s a course that only looks good in a world of panic. So to get you to act accordingly they need to manipulate and exploit the chaos, even if that means they must first create it.

Make no mistake about it, there are evils out there. There are people that wish to do harm, and there are financial and ecological hurdles that must be overcome. But when we suspend reason and rational thought for the type of logic that suggests, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in the bill,” we often times disregard the real threat and instead become victims of fear itself.

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Volume 6, Issue 7, Posted 9:23 PM, 04.06.2010