Fear in America:  An Epidemic or Endemic?

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When does sanity replace fear?  Ever since 911, fear has continued to creep into the pores of American life.  Day after day brings more horror stories to our TV’s and newspapers.  Each of these stories of mayhem and cruelty drives a spike into our souls.  Our compassion for others is slowly but irrevocably replaced by the thought that “maybe I will be next.”  Let a helicopter fly overhead or a police siren go off, and we double check our door locks and log into our neighborhood chat line to see what is going on.  More Americans have moved into gated communities with a hope that a large wall will provide security and safety.  Those that have not moved into gated communities have stockpiled guns that the manufacturer assures them will thwart any unwanted visitors.

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I recently caught the following dialogue on Nextdoor, a social media platform organized by zip codes.  If you need a plumber or carpenter or fresh eggs or just want to catch up on local gossip, you can log on to Nextdoor and get the latest scoop.  This morning there was a thread that went like this: (Names changed)

Angela:  Newman Ranch

Helicopter over back gate at Newman Ranch and police car just sped down the road.  Anyone know what is happening?

Mary and Andrew: Newman Ranch

A friend who joined us for thanksgiving dinner told us that his friend who lives nearby had a dead body in his yard this past summer.  He said the police warned him that the Mexican Cartels had a route that passed nearby.

Pete: Newman Ranch

Although we are a gated community, it’s a good idea to be sure to lock your doors and be aware of your surroundings even while in town shopping.

Paul: Newman Ranch

Anyone that thinks Newman is a gated community is wrong.  Ken, our security head informed me that we are NOT a gated community.

Mary: Newman Ranch

Does Ken read our Newman Ranch website.  It says, “As soon as you drive past the gated entry at Newman Ranch, you will appreciate the tranquility of quiet surroundings and the comfort of a roving patrol.”

Harvey:

I’ve lived in several gated communities and none of them are secure.  If someone wants to get in, they will get in.  Gates are a slight deterrent.

Melanie:

Anymore updates on this.  I heard it was illegals on the run.  But I would like to have facts.  It is scary as most of us likely keep our back doors open during the day. 

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As you may easily surmise from reading the above, even those with the money to live in a “gated” community are not free from the fear that pervades America today.  Whether it is “illegals”, juggers, car jackers, home invaders or serial killers, we have a wide assortment of people who we can fear.  If these are not enough, we have road rage maniacs, gun toting nut cases, disgruntled employees, stalkers, and teenagers looking for five minutes of fame.  It seems like we are not safe even putting one foot out the door these days. 

iStock-1257965641Many of you reading this may remember the time when kids went to school by themselves.  Saturday was a day for playing outside with your friends and your parents seldom carried a concealed weapon unless it was a paddle to spank your butt.  Today, kids spend most days with helicopter parents, sanctioned after school sports leagues or at home playing video games.  The sports field in our town of Frederic has a baseball field, volleyball court and four basketball courts.  After twelve years of living in Frederic, I can only remember seeing a few volleyball games and baseball games played each summer.  Most days, even when school was out, the baseball field and the volleyball field were deserted.  The adjunct basketball courts were idle year-round.  I do not ever remember seeing any kids playing a game on the basketball courts. 

“Sad” you may say, “but times change.  That’s life.”  But is it?  Do you really like it this way?  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  We know that fear is inevitable.  It is part of the human condition.  Fear has its positive side in that it provides a warning sign in respect to things we need to be cautious of or perhaps more considerate of.  You start to take a short cut down a dark alley and your nerves begin to tingle.  You are getting a warning that it might not be such a good idea.  You are riding your crotch rocket at a high speed, and you become aware of fear as the utility poles start looking like a picket fence.  If you are intelligent, you slow your bike to a more reasonable speed.  Those that know no fear will probably live an exciting but short life. 

“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”  — Jiddu Krishnamurti

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But fear of life itself is another thing entirely.  When we fear life itself, we are trapped.  We begin to fashion a coffin for ourselves even before we die.  Each passing year sees us living more and more in our coffin.  We do not want to travel because it is too dangerous.  We do not want to meet new people, because we might not be able to trust them.  We don’t try new things or do new things because we might not like them.  A new food might upset our stomach.  We might get lost in a new place.  We might fall on a bicycle or roller skates.  Our coffin becomes our permanent home even before we are dead. 

rsz_fear_8896I do not blame the victim for this “paranoia” for fear.  We have a fear-based society where a paranoia for fear is hammered into us every day.  Each day the radio, internet, TV, newspapers, and social media outlets blasts us with mind numbing stories that would scare Superwoman or Batman.  It is no wonder that we have a fear-based society.  We have a society that is not addicted to fear as much as it is fed fear.  We eat a daily toxic brew of fear.  A fear stew that is comprised of stories that seem horrible beyond comprehension.  I could list a dozen from the past week, but what would be the point.  You know them as well as I do.  Whether they happened in Bangladesh, Spain, Mexico, or the USA, you will find out all about them in your local newspaper or evening cable news.

I would almost agree with a friend that it is impossible to escape fear in America.  Fear is now endemic.  It is a disease more widespread than cancer or Covid.  It is humanities original sin.   We are less than we should be because of fear.  We can never attain the greatness promised by our Founding Fathers because of fear.  The early slave owners lived in constant fear of an uprising by their slaves.  Many people who were brainwashed by pictures of happy dancing “darkies” down on the old plantation are not aware that there were over 300 slave revolts in the USA between 1521 and 1865.  (Did African-American Slaves Rebel?)

How do we free ourselves from fear?  Is it possible?  The experts tell us to overcome our fears.  We are told to “face” our fears.  To stand up to fear.  To never back down.  All good advice that is easier said than done.  What do we say to those who heard the helicopter overhead and the police sirens screaming by early this morning?  “Go back to bed and don’t worry< Be Happy!”

If Patrick Henry were alive today, I can imagine him saying, “What is it that gentlepeople wish? What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Give me freedom from fear or give me death.”

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We purchase a false peace, an ephemeral security, and freedom from fear at the cost of our liberty.  A liberty to go out at night.  To leave our doors unlocked.  To break down our walls.  To embrace those who are different or who want shelter in our country.  To overcome our differences with people of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  Freedom is never free.  Freedom from fear comes with a cost.  Are you willing to pay it or do you prefer to live in fear? 

 

 

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Majik
    Dec 03, 2022 @ 17:26:33

    “Fear NOT!” is one of the most iterated commands in the collection of ancient books we call the Bible and also likely the most disregarded too. Jesus Christ is quoted in the Gospels as wondering if He would still find faith on the Earth when He Returns. It’s a good question, huh?

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Dec 03, 2022 @ 21:18:24

      Yes Majik, it is a very good question. What do you think? John

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      • Majik
        Dec 03, 2022 @ 21:28:22

        I’m going to be sixty-six years old in January, John. My faith in Jesus Christ at times is the only thing that enables me to get out of bed and face my fear and whatever else the day may bring. I think that Jesus . . . Whom I sometimes call “my possibly imaginary Friend,” out of respect for agnostics like yourself . . . is the only Hope left for this old world. I think we are doomed, if not also damned, if He ain’t Real.

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        • Dr. John Persico Jr.
          Dec 05, 2022 @ 10:23:51

          Well, I hope you are right Majik. But right or wrong we all need something or someone to give us hope. I keep hoping that I am wrong and things are going better than I think they are or that there is a bigger scheme and this chaos is just part of it. Funny, to want to be wrong but there are days when I just feel “hopeless.” I actually work on trying to be more positive and my blogs are one small way that I “rage against the night.” I want to let the world other people know that they are not alone and we are all fighting this battle together. John

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  2. Jane Fritz
    Dec 03, 2022 @ 18:06:08

    I’m afraid my “Like” is more an acknowledgement of having read this thoroughly than that I actually liked the topic or the reality, John. I couldn’t bring myself to “Like” your posts on Evil for the same reason, not because they weren’t well done. I wish I didn’t agree with what you’re saying about your country. Sadly, very sadly, this fear is being fed by people seeking power and/or money. And it’s working for them. Just ask Kanye West/Ye.

    The slave OWNERS lived in constant fear of slave uprisings?! One could only hope. Bloody hell.

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Dec 03, 2022 @ 21:17:45

      Jane, I wanted to illustrate that as with slavery, we bring much of the fear on by our actions and decisions and economic realities. I probably left this sort of hanging but it is our lifestyles which is generating the fear in America and people do not seem to accept this or understand this. Guns are a great example. People buy guns to feel safe, but the more guns on the street the less safe we really are. I am glad you did not “like” the posts. I guess I could be more pollyannish but that is not my calling as I see it. I want to be the guy yelling out that the Emperor has no clothes on. I know I will never be popular but I am reconciled to what I can do or say and hope somehow to wake people up or at least some people. John

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      • Jane Fritz
        Dec 03, 2022 @ 21:30:08

        John, I get it all and you explain it to your audience extremely well, and with passion. I agree with everything you say in all these posts (well, except for religion being a moral centre). I mentioned the slave owners’ self-inflicted fear not because I thought you were exaggerating but because it would have been such a fitting and well-deserved irony. It’s just that it’s all so GD sad, and seems to be getting worse as people are manipulated and pitted against each other for power and profit, and, as you say, being encouraged to have guns. The Founding Fathers have to be turning in their graves.

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        • Dr. John Persico Jr.
          Dec 05, 2022 @ 10:20:42

          Hi Jane, I like the abbreviation GD. I have to remember that. I want to say that I hope you do not agree with all my posts. That would give me a big head. BTW, did you ever complete my third challenge question to you? I know I did three but I only remember two from you. I do not remember what the third one was. It may be my mind slipping. I hope you have a happy holiday season. We are now recovering from a flood down here this weekend. Can you imagine a flood in Arizona. I could have taken a boat down the street my house was on. John

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  3. Wayne Woodman
    Dec 04, 2022 @ 14:34:34

    Thanks for the eye opener and yes I did like the piece. I find it disturbing that there is so much fear around and think it may be almost as bad here in Canada except for maybe the smaller communities. We used to not lock our doors until a few years ago when we were broken into and robbed, so now we do which is reflexive of that fear. As you have referenced, if we read or listen to the news we get a constant barrage of bad news which results in fear.
    I wish I could think of ways to tamp down the fear factor but I really think our societies are in for a long period of this until we come to the realization we are all alike.

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Dec 05, 2022 @ 10:17:36

      HI Wayne, I agree about it being disturbing. I remember after 9/11 when the airports stayed at condition orange for about two years post event. I kept wondering when they would downgrade the threat. I think many people benefit from a populace that is scared stiff. John

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  4. barryh
    Dec 05, 2022 @ 06:40:45

    Great post, John. I always thought Roosevelt was dead right. But to be free from fear is easier said than done. We need a level of internal awareness to see the fear arising. Then we can see it for what it is.
    While people don’t attend to their inner world, they are at the mercy of the currents of external media; fear is contagious.

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Dec 05, 2022 @ 10:15:39

      Thanks Barry. I like the thought that fear is contagious and about the inner world. I am beginning to understand that need more and more in my own life. John

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  5. jennygirl1278
    Dec 08, 2022 @ 22:10:09

    I remember some very good advice you gave me, and that was to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone. I do try to keep that upfront, but sometimes the old phobias surface, and I shy from the task at hand. I enjoyed your blog. I can only strive to keep my courage as I advance in age, and have the discernment to know what my limits are and stretch them to the hilt! Lol

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