Dictionary.com defines fear as:”a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined”. Looking at the movies and TV shows that are most popular I have to ask if many of us are fear junkies. The most popular movies are about the apocalypse or horror. Many of the most popular TV shows are about crime. Amusement parks work hard every year to come out with the most terrifying rollercoasters. Has the world around us become so unpredictable and ominous that fear has become the new normal? Are the movies, TV shows and amusement park rides a reflection of how we see the world? Are we truly living in a world in which we are simply waiting for the other shoe to drop? Is personal and national safety a thing of the past? Is it a world of black vs. white, them vs. us? Is the enemy anyone who doesn’t look like us, think like us, sound like us or pray like us? Should we provide guns to all who are not “us”? Is the only rational response to the frightening world in which we live to build a protective wall around us and shoot first before they can shoot us? If you are one of the millions supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz your answer is yes.
The words of Roosevelt have never been more relevant and the Republican candidates have cynically used them to their full advantage. They have correctly assessed the mood of the country. Rightly or wrongly there is sense that the future is tenuous. There is no doubt that this mood exists, in large part, because of the Republican drumbeat for the past seven plus years. The purveyors of fear have told us that our freedom of religion, our constitutional rights, the institution of marriage, the free market system, our borders, gun ownership, rights of the unborn, Christmas and Western Civilization, are all under siege. They have blamed all of this on the isolation, insulation, impotence and stupidity of Washington leadership. Trump and Cruz, equally dangerous and delusional, believe that they, and only they, can make America great again. The millions who are frightened, because they have been told that they should be frightened, are willing to abide by the solutions they are told will alleviate the causes of their fear. Never mind that the solutions are simple and nonsensical. The millions who are being spoken to are not deep thinkers. They simply want someone who acknowledges their fear and is willing to do what it takes to make them feel unafraid again. The candidates, using the fear that they have created and feed everyday, are suggesting the most extreme and irrational solutions. Whether they truly believe in what they are saying or are simply using their extreme positions as a pathway to power is anybody’s guess. It makes little difference what the answer is. Fear is the tool being used and fear is the enemy of rational and constructive thinking.
What is clear is that fear as a vehicle to attain power is working. That is a fact that WE must be afraid of. In President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening he acknowledged the challenges that face us. But unlike his Republican counterparts, his was a message of optimism and hope. He is trying to nourish the inner optimism and strength of the American people, while the Republicans seek to feed the fear and pervasive pessimism of their supporters. The contrast is stark and telling. The outcome will shape the future. Will fear win out over courage and optimism? We have nothing to fear but fear itself.