Fear, in All Its Distressing Disguises
What price fear, Beloved? Here are some answers. Every one is a phrase from today’s New York Times.
· an appalling siege of the U.S. Capitol
· pro-Trump insurrectionists
· an upset defeat in two Georgia Senate races
· soul searching
· a pivot from the riot
· extreme polarization
· white nationalism
· anti-democratic policies
· sharply slashed government regulations
· cut taxes for the wealthy
· a hollow[ed] out welfare program
· a heavily evangelical base
· tough-on-crime policies
· anti-abortion rhetoric
· coded racist attacks on “welfare queens.”
· declining standards of living
· people worse off economically
· white cultural resentments
· free market individualism
· job-taking immigrants
· shadowy machinations of the global elite.
· a cult of personality
· ending birthright citizenship for immigrants
· militarizing the border
· disenfranchising Americans under the guise of protecting the integrity of the ballot
· favoring an isolationist nationalism
· a “takeover of America.”
· a right-wing America First populism
· tax cuts for wealthy Americans
· business-friendly deregulation
· conservative court picks
· a world of economic anxiety
· disempowerment of the middle class
· colossal income inequality
· extreme wealth inequalities
· increasing immiseration and insecurity of the American middle and working classes
· pandering to cultural resentment
· personalistic authoritarian populism
· messianic loyalty
· martial followers
· a Republican blueprint for the future
· visceral cultural resentments
· the championing of outsider status
· war against the very government they are part of
· the weakening of our already fragile democracy
Sad to say, Beloved, but these phrases are from one article in today’s Times. One. I ask again, what price fear? For, make no mistake, every single one of the items on the list above is based, however irrationally, emotionally, in fear in all its distressing disguises.
Fear is a many-splendored thing.
A call from those who know between Trump and Pence as he was leaving for The Capitol: “You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”
Fearmongering at its finest, no? Subtext: The [ephemeral] “people” will think you’re not patriotic enough? The people will think you’re a woman?! (Oooh, eek, terrifying!)
Another article identified the legion of symbols shown during the attack on The Capitol revealing “an alternate political universe where violent extremists, outright racists and conspiracy theorists march side by side with evangelical Christians, suburban Trump supporters and young men who revel in making memes to ‘own the libs.’”
Again, based in fear. Joan Donovan is the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She said, “It’s funny until it’s scary.”
Um, yes, it is. It has become and still is scary.
The fear that I’m citing caused my compassionate heart a squeeze the other day when I read about a woman from South Carolina, a mother of 15 children, whipped into utter terror by her pastor. What Thomas L. Friedman calls in this morning’s essay, “Trump’s camp,” are there “precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated, and left behind.”
When I read of the mother bursting into tears because of her fear, I had to take a good, hard look at my own hardness of heart. As a brilliant psychologist friend of mine has been known to say, “I can only clean up my own side of the street.”
Well, my side of the street has some push-back plaque in its arteries over the domestic terrorism we witnessed a week ago today. And, as I am so fond of saying, at the same time, I feel empathy for those who feel left behind. Their fear is real — to them.
We must address the fear. No, we must drill down to the level of the fear to address it where it lives. These are persons who are behaving like pieces of their psyches are collapsing. On one, rather benign level, it’s known as spiritual growth, spiritual change, spiritual healing. On another, which for the one experiencing it doesn’t feel so kind, it’s terrifying.
Belief systems are constructs in the psyche of a person. They encompass everything from The Tooth Fairy to The Adversary. When change, at that inner, and meta, level is happening, it’s very disorienting until the psyche resettles itself into a comfort zone of its own choosing. That activity takes … well, as long as it takes.
So let’s name the fears that need addressing. Fear of death. Fear of annihilation. Fear of powerlessness. Fear of loneliness. Fear of differences. Fear of speaking up and fear of never being heard. Fear of new knowledge. Fear of divine retribution.
When belief systems touch these issues, it is scary. In fact, it’s damn scary. I know. I’ve been there plenty of times.
If you’re with Janis Joplin, then freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose. The think that’s what the rioters in The Capitol felt.
If you’re with FDR, the Four Freedoms were goals articulated by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Monday, January 6, 1941. In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:
· Freedom of speech
· Freedom of worship
· Freedom from want
· Freedom from fear
The rioters used their freedom of speech last week. Like it or not, they spoke clearly and loudly. They also prayed together — freedom of worship in action. They believe they are in the spiritual right, as in righteousness. They are certain that there are benefits being withheld from them, that there are things that they want which, if others get them, they will not.
And so we come to the freedom from fear. No one in the United States of America a week intothe insurrection is free from fear. No one. I’ve both seen it in my practice and I feel it myself.
In the Letters to the Editor this morning, reader opinion ran the gamut on next week’s Inauguration. Some wrote saying we must have the usual pomp and circumstance; otherwise, the rioters will win. Others, equally adamantly, recommend the ceremonial be in an undisclosed location broadcast all over the world. We are all managing fear, Beloved.
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) lost his only son to suicide on New Year’s Eve. The pain that comes with an event like that is unimaginable. Mr. Raskin, nevertheless, was in the chamber to certify the electoral votes on January 6th. That’s the kind of man he is.
He likes to say that “change is made by people who show up.” On January 7th, despite the terror he experienced the day before, despite being up till nearly 4 AM about the republic’s business, despite his own personally wrenching loss, Mr. Raskin drafted the Article of Impeachment to allow the House to indict Mr. Trump. He’s the kind of man who shows up.
John Yoo is a legal scholar consulted by Mr. Pence’s office in the run-up to the Epiphany vote which should have been a routine imprimatur on the electoral count. “‘Pence had a choice between his constitutional duty and his political future, and he did the right thing,’ said Mr. Yoo. ‘I think he was the man of the hour in many ways — for both Democrats and Republicans. He did his duty even though he must have known, when he did it, that that probably meant he could never become president.’” In the end, Mr. Pence showed up in the face of his own political disappointment and his own fear of retaliation by his boss.
Anu Garg’s A THOUGHT FOR TODAY yesterday gave me goosebumps. It came from 18th century statesman and writer Edmund Burke. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” He was a man of his time. Allow me to add, or she.
Beloved, what little you can do to lessen your own fear, grow your own compassion, and clean up your own side of the street will help all of the rest of us do the same. We must not allow the little we can do to stop, um, the little we can do because the little we can do, Beloved, if each one of us does just that, will begin to loosen the stranglehold of fear that has arisen in our country and set us all, once again, upon the road to freedom that was the seed behind the inception of this august republic from day one.
Don’t discount your efforts, Beloved. When we face fear in all its distressing disguises, we break its ability to frighten us. And that answers the question what price fear in full.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com