My brother has a theory about fear and politics.
He says that since the fall of the Soviet Union, we in the US do not have a common boogeyman. We used to fear and hate the Soviets, but during the 90s, the Wall came down and we lost our villain. So we turned on each other. Feminists, religious conservatives, homosexuals, immigrants, the poor, the rich—each took their turn on center stage as the new “boogeyman”. But the fear was never a consensus, so it drove us apart along political lines. When 9/11 happened, not even that united us for long—only long enough to dupe us all into one war we didn’t need to fight, driven by fear of what might happen.
Now we’re chewing on each other again and almost every single divisive political disagreement is grounded in fear. Gay marriage will ruin traditional marriage! Raising the minimum wage will tank the economy! The Hobby Lobby decision is the first step to women being required to wear burqahs!
Fear is everywhere.
Take the gun rights argument. You know Dana and I respect anyone’s right to hunt as long as they consume, and to own a firearm to protect their family.
We are not on board with high powered and semi- or automatic anything. We don’t see the point.
But folks will get all hot and bothered over their right to guns that have no other purpose than to turn living things into a pile of ground meat. The anger is always laced with fear of what might happen. Like we might be invaded. Don’t ask by whom, no one knows. But we need to be ready.
I saw it with the border protests in town too. Lots of worry about disease. Horrible, awful, possibly incurable things like strep throat. Lice. Measles. People were whipped into a frenzy, one man yelling at the cameras that he had to protect the health of his kids, wife, parents.
No matter that there was an outbreak of measles in Temecula this winter, due to unvaccinated kids.
Maybe Guatemalan measles are deadlier?
That just might be true.
And then last week, the plane crash in Ukraine. I found out about it on Facebook, since we were on vacation. I read the article and then commented on the post: “Dude.” Which in Jen speak means “That is one f-ed up and sad situation.” To which the poster replied “So scary.”
Sad? Reprehensible? Immoral? Incredibly irresponsible and just plain STUPID?
We can take any situation at any time and twist it into a horror movie, but that doesn’t mean the horror movie will happen.
Of course, horror movie scenarios make money, for news stations and politicians. People we should be able to trust, people who say they stand for our good, are using fear of what might happen to boost ratings and win elections.
And we’re so used to it that we don’t even fight it anymore but let me tell you: this nation was not founded on fear. Good Lord, if the Puritans had stopped to think what might happen, they wouldn’t have gotten on the ship.
And the worst did happen, by the way, and they survived. That’s the blood that runs in our veins.
I’m done being scared. I want to live here, and now. I want to live in truth and light, not rumors and shadow. I am not talking about turning a blind eye to the state of the world and living in blissful ignorance. But I wish we could all stop looking at what might go wrong and start seeing what is going right.
We should find the courage to hold our leaders and media to this same standard. All we have to say is this:
We are not little children. We are God-loving folks and we are not scared of the dark. We work hard, we support each other and we deserve the truth. You think the truth is boring. You think we need a boogeyman. We have news for you: Main Street USA is about as real as it gets and our lives are not boring. They are beautiful and fruitful, even when they are hard.
That’s the truth.
So stop inventing ways to tell stories that try to make us feel like the world is blowing up and caving in on us all at once. Stop telling us about what might happen. Be real.
That’s our new hashtag: #BeReal. A challenge, a reminder and notice served that we aren’t buying fear for fear’s sake anymore.