Back in the early days of the mask hysteria of 2020, I saw a photo of a woman with a protest sign: “I need a haircut,” she proclaimed. Her concern struck me as childish. But then later I saw another woman marching in defiance of mask mandates brandishing a large sign that said: “I’d rather bury my family from Covid than to see them enslaved to the fear of it.”
It is a bizarre and tragic twist, I think, that for some people masks have become a symbol of fear instead of a symbol of care.
I’ve thought about that woman’s fear that her loved ones might become “enslaved to fear.” I’ve wondered if these are some of the same folks who, for eight years, lived in fear that Obama was going to take away their guns. If these are some of the same people who are so afraid of “Brown hordes” at our southern border, “Black thugs” in our cities, and “Islamic terrorists” while evidently oblivious to the widespread domestic terrorism of white supremacists.
I wonder if these are some of the same people who are so afraid a few of their tax dollars will be spent providing a social safety net for their poorer neighbors. “Social safety net” is not the term they use though; they’re quick to twist “social” into the scary boogieman: “socialism.” It’s a more effective way to justify their fears.
I confess I have plenty of fears of my own and I have to work hard to keep them under control. I worry about pollution, about climate change, about unending war and police violence. I’m concerned about political corruption and corporate exploitations. I agonize about the many ways racism is embedded into our policies and institutions. And yes, I do fear a super contagious virus that has wreaked havoc across the globe.
Those are all legitimate, I think, but they are big picture fears. I’m fortunate I don’t have to live in fear of losing my job, losing my health insurance, putting food on the table for my children, affording my medications, or finding myself evicted and homeless. Too many people in too many places must live in constant fear of these kinds of hard, daily realities. My heart aches for them.
It occurs to me that some of the things in the list above are monster-under-my-bed, tree-limbs-in-the wind-scratching-at-my-window fears while others on the list are the kinds of things grown ups are supposed to worry about.
I’ve pondered the developmental stages we humans grow through and wondered if some people somehow get stuck; if maybe some grown-ups never quite finish growing up.
We’ve seen enough temper tantrum, tweeting toddler behavior and too much paranoid, passive aggressive behavior. I think we need more adults who will step up and do more public adulting in these fearful days. I think we all need to get hold of our fears and find our courage.
As the very wise Nelson Mandela taught us:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not the one who does not feel afraid, but the one who conquers that fear.
Instead of living in fear, I say we choose to live in courage. The world desperately needs us to conquer our fears so that we may come together and conquer our challenges.
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”Mark Twain
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.Winston Churchill