I Fear Fear

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately.hazmat_lady

Between the Ebola and ISIS, many Americans seem to be in a state of near panic. The Ebola, in particular, seems to have the general population particularly scared. In fact, some of the social media commentary I’ve seen borders on hysteria.

I really can’t put it into perspective any better than Reason Magazine writer Steve Chapman.

Ebola has killed one person in the United States, which is one more than the Islamic State has killed. But Americans spooked by horrific tales and ominous images are responding as though mass death looms before us.

In other words, Americans have drastically overblown the danger in relation to the actual risk.

I have to confess, I’m not really prone to fear-based panic or worry. Not to say I don’t have fears. I’m terrified of snakes. And I have a deep-seated existential fear of insignificance. I get scared, just like anybody else. But I rarely let it affect my everyday life. In other words, I don’t avoid my back yard because of the very real possibility of running across a snake. If I don’t change my behavior because of very legitimate fears (7,000 to 8,000 people get bitten by venomous snakes every year – plus they look creepy and gross), you will understand my frustration at hand-wringing over the Ebola or religious zealots thousands of miles away..

I confess; I could be proved wrong. The Ebola could become a major epidemic in America. But it probably won’t. And some crazed dude in a black robe may saw my head off. But he probably won’t. I just don’t think these remote threats justify the level of concern most Americans seem to have.

But I do fear one thing.

Fear.

Neil Peart summed it up in The Weapon

We’ve got nothing to fear…but fear itself
Not pain, not failure, not fatal tragedy
Not the faulty units in this mad machinery
Not the broken contacts in emotional chemistry

With an iron fist in a velvet glove
We are sheltered under the gun
In the glory game on the power train
Thy kingdom’s will be done

And the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us…

Fear drives people to do horrible things in the name of security.

It led Americans to cage more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans behind wire for the duration of World War II. It gave us the Patriot Act and the modern American surveillance state. Fear justifies droning innocent people in faraway lands. Fear leads to wars, gross disregard for civil liberties and in the worst cases – genocide.

I’m already hearing fear-based proposals today. I’ve heard people proposing deportation of Muslims and travel bans that will likely cause more harm than good. I’ve seen the ugly hatred that often accompanies fear peeking out from behind people’s eyes.

Yes. That scares me.

I fear fear.

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