The Vicious Circle of Fear

This has been a week of Violence. Two black men were senselessly murdered by police—one in Minnesota and one in Louisiana. Their deaths were recorded by cameras.   Although it is just Friday we got up today to read of 5 policemen slaughtered by a man with a high powered rifle who ambushed them in downtown Dallas, Texas while they were guarding peaceful protesters of the first two killings. In attempt to show the demonstrators they were there to protect and not harm they did not wear their body armor.  Police were the targets—-seven were wounded in addition to the five killed.

At the press conference this a.m. both the mayor of Dallas and the Chief of Police said the words we have heard many times before—-“this has got to stop” But it doesn’t stop and we need to make some fundamental changes in our culture before it will stop in my opinion. We must look at the cause of this mindless slaughter and it goes even deeper than racism.

The basic cause is FEAR.   For the last two decades the American people have been exposed to the politics of fear.   Politicians trying to gain political advantage;  the so-called “religious right” ;   radio commentators such as Glen Beck;  and Fox News,  to name a few of the many,  have all contributed   to this  culture of fear.  Added to this list is the influence of the social media as one of the main avenues of information—often false—and you have this toxic culture we live in  today.  It is a culture of fear!

The culmination of this fear culture we have been building and the major example of a person using this culture of fear to build political power is Donald Trump.  He has built his presidential  campaign on fear.   For example:  Mexican illegal aliens are invading our country and taking  American jobs—so build a  wall to keep them out and deport all illegals.   Or—do not allow Muslims who are seeking refuge in our country to enter  because some of them might be terrorists.  His rhetoric in campaign speeches is violent and is matched by violent supporters in the streets and at his rallies.

Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech to the nation when our country was in the deepest part  of the Great Depression spoke words that are as relevant to our country today as they were to his listeners that were also  gripped by fear:  “Let me assert my firm belief,” he said, “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to retreat or advance….”

Anyone who studies human behavior will tell you that fear causes violence.   It is a kind of paranoia that causes us to want to strike first before we are hurt.  And it is part of a cycle—-fear always eventually leads to violence and then the violence causes even more fear. As the violence accelerates so does the fear and vice versa.

America is near the breaking point as it was when FDR spoke.   Just as major and revolutionary changes were made by FDR and the New Deal, so do some major and revolutionary changes need to be made now.    It cannot continue to be” business as usual”. We need new leadership and fresh ideas if we are to survive and not implode from within.

That is why this coming election selecting our leaders is so crucial!  If we choose those to lead us that do so by fear, this may be our last election!

5 responses to “The Vicious Circle of Fear

  1. Jim, I couldn’t agree with you more with one exception. You say “Fear always eventually leads to violence…” I am not convinced that is necessarily true. Fear is a natural human response – perhaps even hardwired into our systems to allow for the fight or flight response that serves us well in extreme circumstance. The problem of course is that our hard wiring was established eons ago and the world has outrun our evolutionary structures. Fear still plays a role in our modern lives and that is not always a bad thing. But, the kind of fear you are speaking of, the unchecked, irrational fear that builds from “normal” fear tends strongly toward violence if left unresolved; I very much agree with that. I also agree that fear is the basis for all of the breakdowns in our society that we’ve seen for many years but have come to an exponentially higher level in the last several years. Too much fear and not enough hope. Too much blind hatred and not enough love. Too much yelling and not enough critical thinking and discourse. The problem is, it is much easier to succumb to our fears than it is to think, discuss, and walk together away from our problems.

    Shalom my friend.

    • Kelly—thanks for your comment. I did not make it clear enough that I was speaking of fear as a generalized and irrational anxiety that there is no basis for in our current concrete experience . Thanks for adding to my post—I agree with all you said. Shalom to you my friend.

  2. Stephanie Kane

    Hello 😉

  3. Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. Nothing was there.

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