The world is no doubt a scary place for many people after the ubiquitous 9/11. We live in a world it seems that is overflowing with danger. Politicians walk the tightrope between making us feel safe and making us afraid. Anthrax, terrorism, islamofacism, the RIAA, if we don’t allow warrantless wiretapping the terrorists win! It’s a great time for fear. Because if we’re not afraid all the time the terrorists win!
The truth of the matter is that, as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We’re all gonna die. Sooner or later. Everyone but the most depressed among us hope it will be later rather than sooner, but it will happen. And that is the worst that can happen. When you think about it, rationally, it’s not that big of a deal. The important thing is to make what we can out of the time we do have on this earth. And fear robs us of that. If we are constantly afraid of what is going to happen to us, we don’t truly live. We stay secluded in our nice safe prisons and wait for death to take us.
Fear is intrinsically a selfish emotion. It says “I or someone I care about could potentially be harmed.” Which is a good emotion on the surface. We should care about our well-being and that of our loved ones. The problem starts when that good emotion is used to justify actions that ultimately harm or endanger our non-loved ones in the belief that this will make ourselves safer. Taken to an extreme, which it so often is, fear will counter love and destroy peace.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” If we fear things, we close ourselves off from loving them. If we are afraid of the poor or of minorities, we will never see through our own shroud of fear to their true worth as human beings. The same goes for every ethnic, social, and political group. They are all made up of people, and we should love them as creations of God. Because God loves them, we should love them as well.
That is not to say we should simply not concern ourselves with those who genuinely wish to bring us harm, but we should seek to love first and foremost and leave retaliation or violence for the last resort. Instead of fearing we should seek ways to sow love in order to prevent violence from being necessary and promote peace and understanding. This may not always be possible or easy, but it is far better than the alternative.
For me, looking over my shoulder all the time is not worth it. Constant fear is not living. It is a slow death worse than any torture devised by those we fear. Paranoia is not healthy. We jump at shadows while becoming inured to real dangers. We fail to love when we aught. We are not at peace and we have no joy. We withhold kindness from those who need it badly. And it causes us to lose our sense of humor. And if we lose our sense of humor and succumb to constant fear then the terrorists truly have won.