“All we have to fear is fear itself,” FDR intoned. His words are, unfortunately, no longer relevant to our time. Why? Because fear is so pervasive throughout our society it has become unremitting.
“Fear” is no longer a simple, single emotion that can be identified and ferreted out of our corporeal life after which everything will suddenly be okay, as Roosevelt implied. It has become the major cause of our great national discomfort–a motivating force beneath everything we believe, say and do.
The elderly are frightened by talk of making Social Security a private investment system, knowing they are dependent on contributions to the program by “millennials” who may have only their own best interests in mind. We are deeply threatened by talk of major changes in Medicare and Medicaid and modifying advances in affordable health care.
Our current government is cultivating increased anxiety at every age and socioeconomic level. According to political scientist Jason Johnson, “Our Constitution is not written to handle someone like Trump. That is the greatest danger and greatest harm he is to our country.” If Johnson is correct, and I believe he is, this alone should cause increased anxiety for everyone.
When David Cay Johnston (“It’s Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America”) wrote “millions of people voted for a narcissistic, know-nothing con artist who has spent his entire life swindling others while repeatedly urging followers to commit criminal acts of violence against his critics reveals more about Americans than about Trump,” it expressed why everyone should be fearful about their future.
We simply cannot find peace and a sense of inner security when the man occupying the White House shows obvious support for racists and neo-Nazis and has a longtime relationship, despite his denials, with white nationalists. According to Johnston, “developing a sophisticated understanding of other cultures is…crucial to peace and progress.”
The racial/cultural divide in America is a major cause of fear, especially in our inner cities, and our president has a long and documented history of discriminating against people of color. At campaign rallies, he openly singled out African-Americans, ordering pole to “get them outta here” while urging his followers to “rough them up.”
Although a great deal is being said about opportunity and jobs in the current administration, not much progress is being seen. The current trend toward less spending on scientific research and undermining public education is not policy which portends a bright future for Americans.
Increased domestic and gang violence, widespread drug abuse, fear of terrorist attacks–all have infiltrated our neighborhoods so that in many places around the country, people feel they can no longer safely congregate in public places for worship, education or entertainment.
Even while we proclaim we are not intimidated, we observe increased road rage, random outbursts, short tempers and increasing numbers of weapons carried openly. All are signs of embedded fear.
Jesus said, “Be not afraid,” but it’s not that easy in today’s world. We have more to fear than “fear itself.”
[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor and author. His website is Columnist With a View (columnistwithaview.com). Articles for the webzine can be sent to: amsmilt@ windstream.net or sent to P.O. Box 913, Ashland, Kentucky 41101. The article above first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on January 29, 2018.]