Monday, August 23, 2010

The choice is ours

Fear is a choice as well as a deeply rooted biochemical and physiological survival mechanism.  A gun pointed at your face, waking in the middle of the night to a smoke-filled apartment, running away from a collapsing building, or asking a loved one to partner with or marry you.  Yep, all 'good' fears to have---they arise from evolved survival instincts encoded into our peripheral nervous systems.

Other fears---the fear of the unknown, the fear of death, and the fear of the 'other'---are based on choices we make about how we welcome people and events in our path which we either do not understand or cannot control.  Our choice to live in fear or to greet the day with the hope and expectation that all will be well not only colors the day ahead but is infectious----we feed on each others' optimisms as readily as on our fears.

Fear is also contagious as a social mechanism.  Especially in times of economic uncertainty, like now, our collective nerves are on edge.  We're seeing fear in full force at the world trade center site downtown, and it's not pretty.  Yes, Newt is right----this resembles the Nazi era, but it feels more and more like the Nazis are us.

The 'let's blame ourselves' crowd doesn't have much resonance for me, so I'm not going to characterize the anti-mosque forces as ignorant, pigheaded, short-sighted fear mongers---nope, BobOnARoll is not about that.  BobOnARoll is about a search for solutions.

The teachers among us---starting with the Teacher In Chief---need to stand up now and give us all a civics lesson.  And make it loud and make it stick.  Since the majority of Americans seem to have been away from school on the day(s) that American history lessons were being taught, we could start with the Pilgrims and move step by step forward through 400 years of North American settlement and evolution.  Though we didn't  do too well by the Native Americans, the American trajectory has mostly  been about building a haven for people fleeing persecution or seeking opportunity.  We're seriously mucking it up.

And we need some straight talk about fear.  The classic FDR admonition is worth rephrasing and repackaging for the 21st century.  And we need more powers of example walking among us.

You choose.  It's up to you.

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