Living in Fear

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.

Who’s in?

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

6 thoughts on “Living in Fear

  1. Thank you for your reflection and the questions you posed. What struck me is your last question:
    “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.”

    It’s an important one and I think at the heart of what is driving this overwhelming wave of fear that bears a million different faces and is unable to be labeled by one segment of the population via skincolor, race, religion, creed or even economic background. It is a psychic disease, at some level, based on a deep-seated trauma, undoubtedly to be found in childhood. The man who has spoken a great deal on this topic, its source and its way to healing, is the best-selling Canadian author, Dr. Gabor Maté, who’s videos can be found on YouTube. His insights into trauma, addictions, the increased diagnosis of ADD etc is the painful realization that what’s happening has, as its source, the significant wounds of childhood trauma based not on “what shouldn’t have happened ” but rather on “what should have happened. ” I recommend his books and scholarly articles for anyone interested in our nation and their own families.

  2. Thank you, Charlotte. Fear can freeze you or it can motivate you. It can be used against your or used to inspire you. Being able to take a breath rather than give in to the fight or flight hormonal rush with a knee jerk reaction, can be the difference between success or failure. We need to get back to teaching our youth how clever rhetoric can be used to manipulate them and subjugate them. Language skills do not come from iPhones or watching useless TV shows. We need to be able to see through the false prophets who would rob us of clear vision and what little wealth we may have, to not fear their empty curses.

  3. I’m still not sure which right is being violated by being told to wear a mask. The right to be a completely selfish jerk? I wear a mask because it’s a small thing to do that has been shown to lower the spread of the virus. If months later, they determine that masks really don’t help, what have we lost? A bit of discomfort. That’s it.

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