“The only thing we have to fear…”

“And the things that we fear are a weapon to be used against us.” — Rush, “The Weapon (Part 2 of ‘Fear’)”

I have been thinking about the idea of fear a lot in the past few years, particularly as I lead classes through lockdown, evacuation, and fire drills in my school as well as pay attention to some of the news once in a while. Even when talking to friends and family, the subject of fear comes up, or at least a subject based in fear. It seems everyone in this country is driven by fear in nearly everything they do. Parents don’t let their kids play outside unsupervised because of the fear of abduction. Schools run lockdown and evacuation drills because of the fear of violent intruders. Politicians try to suppress forward thinking ideas because of the fear of change.

Not only that, but we celebrate fear. We memorialize one of the most tragic days in US history: September 11, 2001. Each year on 9/11 my school does a whole series of announcements for each of the events of that day and the names of local people who died are read. Of course, any of the students who actually were affected by that day don’t come to school because they DO NOT want to relive that day. The rest of us get to relive our fears in a mass PTSD moment.

And what are we really afraid of anyway? A person is more likely to be hit by lightning than be killed in a terrorist attack. All religions actually preach peace and love and understanding among all people; it’s those who want to interpret their god’s word to support their own fears that turn religion into a weapon. And what are these terrorists afraid of? Certain ways of life influencing the people they want to control; they fear a loss of power. By causing fear (terror), they create control and the more people that are afraid of them, the more they control. Think school bully times a hundred.

What about the whole anti-choice movement? It’s against God’s law to abort a fetus? Here’s a religious argument that, if you are the kind of person to take the Bible at its word, I think you can’t argue with: life doesn’t start until the first breath (Genesis 2:7). [I’m paraphrasing. Click the link to read the whole proof.] So, then why try to outlaw it? FEAR. Fear of women controlling their bodies instead of their husbands/significant male others. Fear that life may not be as sacred as people have told them it is.

I could go off on how religion itself was formed as a response to fear of the unknown and as we come to know more and more, religion becomes a nice, antiquated set of traditions that lead more to suppression of human beings than to the elevation of them, but who has that kind of time.

Why the push to standardize education and base everything on test results? Fear of children growing up as free thinkers. It’s better to have them just follow the rules they are told and only be influenced by what the media wants them to be influenced by without their thinking critically about anything. Thinking leads to questioning and questioning leads to a disruption of the status quo. Even teachers now work in fear of overly standardized evaluation data based on test scores, so they aren’t going to teach anything “outside the box” of what is on the test anymore. If you fear losing your job, you do whatever it takes to keep it.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

Yoda nailed it, of course. When do we become angry? When we fear things may get out of our control. When things we don’t want to happen, we fear will happen, do happen. Look at all the hatred against gay, lesbian, and trans people. Why can’t they have all the same rights as straight Americans? Why is there even a question of it? Are they not people? Are they not Americans? Where’s the problem? Fear of the other. “That which I am not must be wrong, because I am right in every way,” is what these people think. So, if the majority of people are straight, then being gay is wrong. If the majority of people are white, then being black is wrong. Welcome to every negative “-ism” out there. Racism, sexism, heterocentrism (if that’s the right word) are all forms of hatred based on fear. Fear of immigrants coming into this country and taking away jobs from “true Americans,” like any American would take those jobs anyway. Fear of a “gay agenda,” a “Muslim conspiracy,” a “feminist take-over.”

There are actually women against feminism? Talk about putting the “moron” back in “oxymoron.”

So, what’s the solution? Well, FDR said the only thing to fear is “fear itself,” so fight the fear. Start with yourself. Ask yourself about what you are biased against and then think about why. Then start fighting it in others. Let’s start a new movement of rationalism in this country, a movement of thinking before acting, a movement of accepting before rejecting. Consider the old Talmudic rule “Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you.” Jesus modified it a bit — he took the “not” out — but I rather NOT hit someone because I don’t want someone to hit me than give someone a million dollars because I want them to give me a million dollars. Sorry, I find loopholes sometimes.

If you don’t want someone to legislate who you can marry, don’t do it to someone else. If you don’t want someone to shoot you, don’t shoot someone else. It’s really easy. You want a little Jesus in here too? He said it very, very simply: “Love thy neighbor.” He didn’t qualify the neighbor to be white, upper-middle class, straight with conservative views. He just said to love the one you’re with. Okay, that was really Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and they meant something else, but the words can have two meanings. (Now I’m referencing Led Zeppelin?) See that person next to you on line, on the bus, in the classroom, in the hall, at work? Love him. Accept him for who he is and respect him as a human being because we are all supposedly homo sapiens — “wise men.”

Jeez, even that term is sexist.

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