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Fears: Irrational vs Real

Deflating Fake Threats and Acknowledging Real Dangers

Politicians have numerous psychological ploys to garner support and sway constituents. One highly effective tool they use is inciting fear. 

In the days after 9/11, the words "terrorists" and "Al Quaeda" were uttered almost continuously as our nation tried to understand how and why this happened. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but I know that our government pumped up our anxiety and fear to the point that hardly anyone questioned why we were attacking Iraq. When someone finally did pose the question, a new FEAR trigger phrase became part of our vocabulary: WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. 

Our false sense of safety that stemmed in large part to our remote location and Goliath military machine lay in a pile of rubble next to the World Trade Center. The possiblity of an attack using WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION was too much to fathom. With our flag draped around our shoulders, we united with cheers of USA! USA! and we struck first and struck hard, sending a clear message: Don't even THINK about messing with America.

In hindsight, attacking Iran was not the right move and in all likelihood, fueled a more organized, more ruthless group of terrorists called ISIS or ISIL. They're our new enemy spawned by lies that our government told us about having proof of these WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were none. They just wanted to attack Iraq and take outrrq our old enemy, Saddam Hussein. How did they manage to do this without backlash from America citizens? They used our fear to gain our approval or at least our tolerance.

I am somewhat of an anomaly. I am well-educated. I am well-travelled. I live below the poverty line in the deep South. I am well-informed about a number of sociological and political issues. So when a typically conservative politician visits my town, assuming all he's gonna need to do is holler a few "Hallelujahs!," rant about ridding our country of the sin of abortion, and close by sparking a frenzied outrage over the potential threat of a transgendered person using the same public toilet as our innocent Christian babies, I try to be the voice of reason. 

I have never appreciated anyone telling me what should frighten me or worse, dismissing my actual fears as insignificant. I am not trying to coax anyone into my way of thinking. 

My purpose is simply this: when faced with fear, perhaps we should examine the fear and assess if it is worth our energy and emotion. Rather than allow others to stoke our anxiety, wouldn't it make more sense to properly assign some things as minor issues while at the same time recognizing real threats and taking action to address the real issues and minimize the negative effects they may cause to our well-being.

Listed below are what I have determined to be the Irrational fears that politicians or society have presented to me as viable threats:

  • I'm not afraid of a Mexican taking my job. 
  • I'm not afraid of ISIS/ISIL attacking this my hometown. 
  • I'm not afraid of Syrian refugees. 
  • I'm not afraid of Black Lives Matter. 
  • I'm not afraid of Muslims. 
  • I'm not afraid of anyone who classifies himself or herself as a member of the LGBTQ community. 
  • I'm not afraid of controversial opinions expressed in books, movies, or television shows. 
  • I'm not afraid of North Korea or Kim Jong Un. 
  • I'm not afraid of Putin or Russia. 
  • I'm not afraid of people who smoke and/or sell marijuana — even in states where it's not legal. 
  • I'm not afraid of my plane being hijacked or my train being bombed. 
  • I'm not afraid of a big bank or auto maker failing. 
  • I'm not afraid of the constantly growing multi-trillion dollar federal deficit. 
  • I'm not afraid of my taxes increasing. 
  • I'm not afraid of someone who has a different religion, skin color, first language, political affiliation, or cultural heritage. 
  • I'm not afraid of being seen as too political. 
  • I'm not afraid of offending others with my beliefs. 
  • I'm not afraid of an oil shortage. I'm not afraid of Confederate statues and rebel flags. 
  • I'm not afraid of vaccinations or immunizations. 
  • I'm not afraid of breastfed babies who shamelessly eat in public. 
  • I'm not afraid to share a public toilet with anyone who needs to relieve himself or herself. 
  • I'm not afraid of athletes who kneel during the national anthem. 
  • I'm not afraid of national holidays that I can choose to or choose not to celebrate. 
  • I'm not afraid of the words "socialist" and "liberal."

I'm not afraid of any of these things because the possibility of most of us being personally affected in a permanent, negative way is very remote. Many of these are not even real threats — they're  actually only differences that are quite harmless. They really do not matter.

This second list is comprised of what I view as very real fears that could very likely threaten our country and it's citizens  Again, it's a personal list. I encourage you to create your own.

  • I'm afraid of a serious health crisis bankrupting me or someone I love. 
  • I'm afraid of insurmountable student loan debt causing my kids to feel defeated before they even get their first interview for their chosen careers. 
  • I'm afraid of corporations outsourcing jobs to save on labor just to boost stock value. 
  • I'm afraid of company CEOs that take jobs from Americans and give them to people who live in countries that don't have laws protecting employee rights, don't require company-provided health benefits, and have a very low minimum wage. 
  • I'm afraid of companies that give American jobs away but then blame immigrants, promoting discrimination and the unfair demonization of an entire group of people who contribute millions to the agricultural contribution to the GDP and get very little in return. 
  • I'm afraid of wasting billions of tax dollars on a ridiculous, ineffective wall being built on the Mexican border — a wall that will just be torn down as soon as he's gone. 
  • I'm afraid of big money campaign donors controlling how my representatives vote which is usually against what is best for our country. 
  • I'm afraid of an education system that does not teach students to think and reason — only how to memorize and recite. 
  • I'm afraid of an oligarchy. 
  • I'm afraid of capitalism without conscience, especially when it comes to healthcare. 
  • I'm afraid of desperate people doing desperate things because they feel committing a crime is their only option. 
  • I'm afraid of the aftermath when trickle-down economics fails yet again. 
  • I'm afraid of people who use "religious freedom" as an excuse to discriminate and spread hatred. 
  • I'm afraid of people who are willing to continue to support a womanizing, cheating, parasitic, misogynistic, racist, bullying, lying, hate-spreading, divisive, fascist, uncompassionate, unintelligent, dangerous, tactless narcissist despite the fact that he has failed to fulfill ANY of his campaign promises and has, in fact, broken quite a few. 
  • I'm afraid of mentally unstable Americans who legally acquire arsenals. 
  • I'm afraid of politicians who fail to enact common sense gun regulations because the backlash from the NRA matters more than the growing body count due to recurring mass shootings that will never stop because the status quo pleases this powerful group comprised of many assault rifle manufacturing CEOs. 
  • I'm afraid of people who inherit bigotry from their ancestors like a plot of land and, for some reason, think that rejecting this irrational gift of blind intolerance would be an act of disrespect to their elders. 
  • I'm afraid of prisons that do nothing to reform inmates, but instead, turn prisoners into slaves so that a company can make money from free prison labor. 
  • I'm afraid of ignorance about climate change and people who give zero consideration to the planet our future generations will inherit. 
  • I'm afraid of people who believe that science is like mythology -  comprised of possible explanations even though science is based on testing and retesting to establish verifiable proof. 
  • I'm afraid of insatiable greed that blackmails power hungry politicians. 
  • I'm afraid that my vote is worthless. 
  • I'm afraid that my daughters will have to face the same harassment and discrimination that I faced in my twenties. 
  • I'm afraid of people who sacrifice the best interests of 95% of Americans — including their own — to prioritize their conservative moral values and help elect candidates who claim to share their same beliefs but then pass legislation that only helps the wealthy. 
  • I'm afraid of hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. 
  • I'm afraid of police who think their badge and gun grant them limitless power to abuse, injure, or kill the very people they're supposed to serve and protect. 
  • I'm afraid of food that is poisoned with FDA approved pesticides and water that is full of lead. 
  • I'm afraid of collapsing bridges and substandard roads. 
  • I'm afraid of honeybees going extinct. I'm afraid for the lack of access to quality mental health care in this country, especially for veterans who can't erase from their heads the horrors witnessed while fighting in senseless wars. 
  • I'm afraid of the enormous amount of talent that goes undiscovered and potential that is undeveloped in our youth population because funding for arts and music programs gets smaller every year. 
  • I'm afraid for the hopeless heroin addict who innocently started the journey of addiction by taking the pain medicine prescribed by a doctor. 
  • I'm afraid for the elderly lady who goes to bed cold and hungry because the price of her new prescription takes food from her mouth and heat from her home. 
  • I'm afraid of the very real probability that one of my minority or homosexual friends will be the victim of a violent hate crime. 
  • I'm afraid for the family who loses an income and, within 6 to 8 weeks, joins the millions of Americans who are currently homeless. 
  • I'm afraid that a woman might hurt herself or be butchered by a quack if she cannot choose a safe, legal alternative to end her unwanted pregnancy.
  • I'm afraid for all the poor and middle-class young adults who feel that their best option is joining the military and risking their lives, not for democracy, but to line the pockets of US defense contractors. 
  • I'm afraid that my friend's kids will never know what an amazing person he is because he has to work two full time minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet. 
  • I'm afraid of pipelines and fracking. 
  • I'm afraid of living in a country where my patriotism is demanded and my speech is censored. 

The current president skillfully used fear to help get the votes. He pointed out people and things, labeling them as bad threats that he alone could defeat by building walls, draining swamps, and exterminating terrorists. He promised to "Make America Great Again." 

But for who? So far, only the top 2 to 5% will benefit from his tax plan. He's chosen inexperienced billionaires for cabinet positions  For this wealthy group, America has always been great. 

Perhaps the easiest group to sway was the hard-working folks clinging to their middle-class status. They remember the prosperity of the 50s and again in the 80s right before the recession. They forget what caused the recession and only remember the positive feelings of pride and joy when they could pay all the bills and still had money left over to plan a vacation, put in a college fund, or replace the old TY. 

This group liked Trump because he wasn't a politician  Unfortunately, they assumed that made him a regular Joe. In fact, he is more like the wealthy campaign donors who write fat checks to pull the strings of their.puppet politicians. 

DC might be full of representatives who are out of touch with the average American, but the billionaire class where Mr. Trump resides certainly do not have any insight about the challenges of your average American family. Nor do they care. For this quickly diminishing group, greatness will never be recaptured again under this administration   They must live with the realization that they got conned by a well-known con artist. 

For those who have always been poor and/or ostracized, America never will be great, much less great AGAIN. They are waiting for the jobs he promised as he gave out red hats. They are waiting - the same as they've always done. They aren't even expecting "great" —  less oppressive would suffice.  

Even the Dreamers who dared to try still cling to a tiny ray of hope that America will become their true home, even though it is the only home they've ever known. For almost half the population living in poverty, the 'Great America' is a foreign concept so far out of reach that it is barely a visible speck on the radar.

Trump's America will never regain or achieve any greatness unless you are a billionaire. For everyone else, we will have to wait for his exit, make smarter choices, and vote for representatives who will help us overcome our real fears and prioritize our best interests.

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