Monday, September 2, 2019

I want to talk to you a moment about fear.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, and then just as I was about to publish it we had a slew of mass shootings, including one in my own geographical back yard, at a festival I've attended with my family. It seems to me that being afraid of gun violence is the one exception to my entire essay, and it does poke a big hole in it.

We can't be afraid to close that hole. So here is that essay.


I have said for a very long time now that the only useful place for fear in on Rollercoasters. Maybe horror movies. That it. Nothing else. But I want to dig deeper on that theme for a moment, if you don’t mind.

For getting on close to 2 decades now, there has been a political party in this country that has wanted you to be afraid. Usually it’s to be afraid of Muslims, terrorists, foreigner… anything other. They want you to believe that crime is getting worse. They want you to believe the country is financially unstable. They want you to believe there is a gay agenda that will change your life for the worse. A Trans-gender agenda. An Atheist agenda. A war on Christmas. Fear of packages in the mail. Fear of people in black communities, with their high crime rates. Fear of immigrants and the crime they bring. Fear of cartels and gangs that don’t even have a presence in this country. Fear of the Deficit. Fear that higher taxes will kill the economy. Fear that Iran is building an atomic bomb. Fear that the government will take over your healthcare. Fear that the government will take your guns. Fear that the government will take your freedoms.

This really ramped up after 9/11. I won’t kid you, that was awful. Grotesque. I can remember every damned moment of it – feeling genuinely in shock but being brave for my children, who were frightened out of their wits. Grabbing my children from their schools. Picking up my wife from her teaching job and the protocols that say that teachers needs to stay at their posts can go fuck themselves. Hunkering down and wishing it were all over. Thinking about the flight originally bound by my adopted hometown, and our own skyscrapers. It was awful and it opened a horrific wound.

Thing is, when do we get to heal? Why do we need to stay afraid? How can we possibly heal if we’re still afraid?

I’m asking that all of you please, stop being afraid. We’re not the greatest country in the world anymore but we sure used to be. We dreamed big, accomplished even bigger, and created the world’s next great adventures. We don’t do that anymore.

Fear is holding us back. Fear of the other. Fear of the world and how different it is from us. Yeah, we got hurt, badly hurt, but it’s time to heal. It’s time to stop being afraid to heal. It’s not easy, and I don’t deny that. But let me offer you a few notions about fear that maybe you haven’t considered.

I’m not afraid of Muslims. They’ve been part of this country going back to its very foundation. There are more Muslims in the world than there are Americans and there always has been. 9/11 didn’t change that. We’ve been fine with Muslims. Sharia Law isn’t being introduced anywhere in this country. It’s just not. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, and wants you afraid. If Muslims were such a big problem why are we as a nation so damned friendly with Saudi Arabia? Senegal? Pakistan? Morocco? Singapore? Egypt? Kuwait? Morocco – the first country to recognize the United States as an independent country (1786), and with whom we maintain the longest single treaty in US History?

A Muslim named Fazlur Tahman Khan (an American) invented the engineering system that allows skyscrapers to be built, including the Twin Towers, Sears Tower in Chicago and even the Trump International Hotel and Tower in the same city. He also built the Metrodome. A Muslim named Ernest Hamwi invented the Ice Cream Cone at the 1904 World’s Fair (Martha Stewart has published his original recipe too).

I’m not afraid of terrorists. I actually know someone who died on 9/11 and I completely understand the anger, the fear. I’ve felt it. It’s a physical thing you can feel and touch. But you know what? The country seems to have learned its lesson about how to anticipate this sort of thing. I’d like to think we can relax now. There are people whose jobs are to be vigilant and they’ve been successful since that awful day 2 decades ago. I think we can relax. And if I’m wrong? What’s the point of dying scared? Laugh at death – it’s going to laugh back. Don’t take life so seriously, it was never meant to be permanent.

I prefer to think of them simply as criminals. In addition to not being afraid, don’t make them important.

I’m not afraid of foreigners. I want to see the world, and see the differences and the similarities in other cultures. I want them to be our partners on this pale blue dot. Being afraid of the rest of the world seems just so… lonely. We’re not built for lonely. You’re here, reading this right now, aren’t you? Lonely makes people into monsters thanks to the echo chamber that is our own brains and we must be better than that.

I’m not afraid of crime. Despite all the crime shows on television, cable and podcast crime is actually way down, and is trending down. Even the FBI says so.

I’m not afraid of the country being financially unstable. Yes, we have good days and bad days but overall the country is still the largest economy on the planet and will continue to be for a long time unless we intentionally intervene to make it worse. We have safety nets we didn’t use to have. Social Security isn’t going broke. Nowhere close. We have plenty of money. It does, however, need a slight adjustment in who is holding on to it.

I’m not afraid of gays. For the most part, every gay person, every Trans person I have ever met has wanted only one thing – for everyone else to not care that they’re gay or trans. Or anywhere else on the non-binary spectrum. It doesn’t affect you in any way whatsoever. The LGBTQA agenda in schools? Mostly it teaches that it doesn’t matter. Can you stop being afraid of this? Yeah, some religions say that this is a sin but can you stop being afraid of it long enough to take to heart one great lesson in that book of yours? Even if you believe it’s a sin, you love the sinner. That’s it. Stop there. Never, never, never add hate to that. “Love the sinner, Hate the sin” isn’t in the Bible, the Koran or the Torah. Anything further isn’t religion – it’s justifying what you’re afraid of; most likely yourself.

(As a side note, for those of you who use the Bible to justify your fears of these people, I find it hilarious that you keep using the parts of the Bible written by the Romans after they co-opted Christianity. But who am I to judge?)

I’m not afraid of Atheists for the same reason. You know what they want? For everyone else to not push their own agenda on them, just like you don’t want someone else’s agenda forced on you. The Constitution is quite clear on this – no religion will be established by the state. Atheists would like you to support this very American ideal. That’s it.

There is no war on Christmas. There simply isn’t. Atheists exchange gifts too, because it’s nice to do.

I’m not afraid of packages in the mail. Yeah, there was some scary stuff sent out just after 9/11, but the number of people who got those packages/envelopes can be counted on one hand, and it isn’t your hand.

I’m not afraid of black neighborhoods. Crime really isn’t any higher in black neighborhoods than it is in white ones, not when the economics are taken into account. When people have money crime goes down, regardless of the color of one’s skin. Go to any white community where they income levels and cost of living are the same as any similar black neighborhood and you’ll find that the crime rates are just about equal. But the people trying to keep you afraid are white, and black is part of “the other”. There are good people living in those neighborhoods. Kind people. People who would help you.

Stop calling the police on black people. Stop being afraid. Be kind.

I‘m not afraid of immigrants or any crime. Yes, a couple of stories have been sensationalized, but statistically immigrants cause less crime than those of us born here. I’m not afraid of them taking our jobs. If the jobs are there and you want them, apply for them. Those jobs they’re taking are jobs you didn’t want, and they’re there. Immigrants tend to work hard, because they want what we used to be, and what they believe we can still be.

Fear of foreign gangs? Seriously? This might surprise you but MS13 members haven’t been making it across the border. You don’t find them in our detention camps. That’s because they’re not here.

Fear of the deficit? Nope, just can’t do it. Not when the political power who wants you to be afraid stops caring about it when they’re in power, and starts caring about it when they’re not. Besides, when they are it balloons, and when they’re not it decreases. Almost like they’re the cause or something.

I don’t fear higher taxes. Most people simply don’t make enough money where changes in the marginal tax rate will even touch them. Will it destroy the economy? No. The economy could change though. If money gets returned to the lower classes they’ll spend it. The economy should actually get better. The economy was great when Eisenhower was President. When Kennedy was President. We built highways. We went to the moon. You know, when taxes were higher.

Taxes, right now, are lower than they have been in your entire lifetime. Unless you’re over 90 years old.

Iran isn’t building an atomic bomb. They could, if they’re not engaged with. Obama realized this and got them to stop. I’m not afraid on Iran. But some people haven’t recovered from the wound given us in 1979 by Iran. Trump may just be one of them. His National Security Advisor certainly hasn’t.

I don’t fear the government taking over my health care. I’d kind of rather they did so, actually. My mother has Medicare and they’ve treated her better than my doctors sometimes treat me. Her healthcare also costs one hell of a lot less. If we move to a system like the one Canada has then yes, your taxes will be higher. But your healthcare costs will be lower. Much lower than how much your taxes go up. I’d say that’s a trade to not be afraid of.

I don’t fear the government taking your guns. I’d actually be quite happy if they did it but that’s a conversation for another time. It’s simply not going to happen. We do need to have an honest conversation about it though. We’ve lost too many children to guns. Come on people, we can solve this.

There is so much more that people have been trying to make us all afraid of over the past couple of decades. Much more than I could list here. Vaccines, Godless schools, Black people voting, improper birth certificates, QAnon, Impeachment… the list just goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on. I’m not afraid of any of it.

And I’m not afraid of Donald J. Trump. Or Mike Pence. Or Moscow Mitch McConnell.

I’m not afraid of anything. I’m an American. A citizen of what used to be The United States of America. I’d like you to be too.

Being afraid is downright un-American. So stop it. All of you.

You can do this.