Tag: fear

500 Words on Fear

Art by Paul Klee

When people look at all of the crimes being committed in the US, from corrupt and unhinged leadership to murder in the streets by emboldened hate groups, it can be difficult to see the fuel that drives such things. A good portion of it is ignorance, another is projection and feelings of disenfranchisement. But, at its foundation, these small-minded, petty people are ruled by fear.

It’s a difficult thing, facing up to the truth. Especially when it comes to our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror, and seeing something you do not like — that’s hard and disturbing, on a very deep level. Being afraid of those things — the behaviors that have hurt others, the decisions you’ve made that threw you off your pace and broke hearts, the beliefs you had that turned out to be false or misinformed — is natural. Fear kept our ancestors alive. Fear warns us of danger. Fear can save your life.

Fear can also kill.

People have feared “the other” since time immemorial — those of different skin color, with a different language, living and thinking in different ways, were “the enemy.” People were afraid of prophets, philosophers, Jesus of Nazareth — and they killed them. People were afraid of native populations, and wiped them out. People were afraid of Communism, and founded toxic ideologies in response, waging pointless wars that cost countless lives in pointless struggle, and creating arsenals that could literally end all human life on this planet.

And now here we are, in the 21st century, still dealing with that bullshit.

We live in an age where vast stores of information are at our fingertips. The means exist to have healthy, enlightened debates on our climate, our society, our future, and ourselves. We have a plethora of tools to look into, discern, and correct those things about ourselves and the world around us that we can change, that we must change. We have so much power.

Some are afraid of that power.

To see change affecting others can be terrifying. Be it for good or ill, seeing a new side or a newer version of someone we used to know is off-putting. If it’s for the better, and that person is living a healthier, more thoughtful, more loving life, it’s worth celebrating. If it’s for the worse, it must be called out, if not condemned.

It’s understandable to fear change.

It is not understandable to fear skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or personal philosophies.

It simply isn’t logical. What affect do these aspects of another have on your life? None that I can discern. It’s that vestigial, knee-jerk fear of “the other” that informs the marches, the lit torches, the toxic thoughts, the gestures of hate, the murders. No matter the flimsy justification, underneath the bile is fear, the fear of a child, the fear of the ignorant, the fear of the lost.

And make no mistake. These fearful are going to lose.

Because love always triumphs.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Art: Mask of Fear, by Paul Klee

My Country In Wartime

We Shall Overcome

I have felt this atmosphere in my country before.

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, there was a palpable aura around the people who walked to and fro, doing their best to go about their daily lives. We fought back against a paralysis so gripping, it threatened to choke the life from us. We’d been knocked back on our heels. We’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. And we resolved, as a nation, not to let the fear rule our lives. We didn’t normalize what had happened. We fought back. We went to war.

I hate that word. War.

FDR hated it, too. He said as much in an address given at Chautauqua, N.Y. in 1936:

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

I am seeing, and feeling, so many parallels, between those times and now, that I have to use a word and idea that may prove antithetical to what’s best for our society, but rings true no matter how I might deny it.

What has happened in the wake of this latest election in the United States is no less than a declaration of war.

I look at the rhetoric. I read between the lines. I see what’s been spewed from the deep places of the Internet. I hear tell of ambitious plans to continue shifting the global atmosphere to one of hatred and “cleansing”, from electing more radically prejudiced leaders to a delineation of in what order to “purge” those who are “lesser”. These are more than words. These are weapons. And they are aimed directly at a global heart of compassion and understanding just now beginning to emerge from the darkness.

In art, there is truth, and words from one of the authors who helped shape me ring true:

ARAGORN: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

This is why it is so important that this behavior, this aggression, this warmongering, is not normalized. We cannot and must not accept it as the new zeitgeist. We must stand together against a tide of ignorance and smug notions of superiority. Our imperative, as a species that wishes to survive and prosper, is to stand together, in love and understanding, and declare that this venom will not kill us. Regardless of our colors, genders, orientations, creeds, and backgrounds, we owe it to ourselves and each other to work as one to overcome what threatens to undermine, belittle, divide, and destroy us.

We had a hand in how this came about. We ignored the warnings. We downplayed the severity of the potential consequences. Some of us fell into arrogant presumption, others savored the opportunity to say “we told you so”, still others took the proceedings as a joke, and as a whole, we failed to stand against a rising tide of darkness that now threatens, more than it ever has before, to engulf the world we are trying so hard to save.

The mistakes are ours. We made our decisions. We behold and are sickened by the consequences.

Blame does not matter. Being crippled by guilt is no better than being crippled by fear.

What matters is — what do we do now?

We stand. We plant our feet. We take one another’s hands. We look at one another to see the light we have to share, and foster that light to shine with our individual flames.

We meet the enemy on the field and declare that we do not and will never surrender.

This is not normal. This is not right.

It falls to us to protect the work we’ve already done and the potential we have to make our future better. Each of us, as individuals, has something to offer in what is to come. If we can come together, if we can stymie the growing threat of all-encompassing hatred, if we prove that love can, should, and must prevail — we can win this. We can protect ourselves and our future. And we can look back on this moment and say that, this time, this time, evil was not allowed to rule the day. We can prove that we can get, and be, better.

We shall overcome.

If my voice has any reach, any meaning, I use it to say this: join me. Not in accepting this as the new normal, but denying it power over us and our future. Join me in a community that shares love, strength, and truth. Join me in looking past one another’s flaws, mistakes, and prejudices, to the veracity and beauty of our inner Selves, and telling the darkness and hatred in the world that it cannot prevail, it cannot destroy or conquer us, and it cannot and shall not pass.

I will not be silent. I will not stand idle. I will not let this poison kill us.

I will stand with you, in this time of war.

Will you stand with me?

Poem: “It’s 2015”

In addition to the vlog, on the 1st of every month, I’m recording the reading of a poem I’ve written. The first one, here, was written around the time of my last birthday. I don’t imagine to have great skill as a poet, as longer-form fiction has long been my writing focus, but I hope you find something worthwhile in these stanzas.

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