We're approaching Halloween, and at this time of year, we try very hard to scare ourselves, scare our friends, family, and even children all in a sense of good, albeit mischevious fun. I sat down tonight and thought: What is the most important message that I could give to my nation, my generation, and my children? It was simple: Don't be afraid.
Look around you, check your social media feeds (go ahead I'll wait here in the other tab/window...) you're going to find post after post, story after story, videos in the millions designed to do one very simple thing: make you afraid in order to motivate you into doing something. The idea is to make you afraid enough to buy something, go somewhere, do something, or say something. They'll scare you to make you vote; they'll scare you to make you protest; they'll scare you to make you violent. Above all other things, people who are afraid are people who OBEY.
Fear is a primal response which forces binary thinking— fight or flight, for or against, Pro-Trump or Never-Trump, resist or submit. Binary thinking is a logical fallacy in almost every possible situation. If we can be made afraid enough, the most basic possible thought process in the oldest part of our brains are driven by adrenaline and forces us to make what can be the worst decisions of our lives. What the powers of social media and group-think have done is to plug into our basest possible instincts. Rather than setting us free intellectually, the readily available flow of uninhibited information is regressing us to our primal, savage natures.
Today we live in a world where rights that were held two centuries ago as beyond contestation— "truths (held) to be self-evident," are under constant and sustained attack. We have a President who in the face of some of the most biased media coverage in history has candidly raised the question of whether or not the truthfulness of the Press, or rather the flagrant lack thereof, can or should be policed, and if so, by whom?
We have hundreds of thousands of people— movie stars and politicians alike decrying the uninfringed right to bear arms, long held sacrosanct as the final resort to preserve a free nation. It's all about fear. The way societies have traditionally surrendered their rights has always been through the stealthy administration and steady exploitation of fear.
I don't want my sons or anyone's to grow up afraid that they will be judged and held indirectly responsible for the crimes of other, unrelated, men who lived and died in this nation a century before their ancestors arrived here all through the fallacy of "white privilege." It is only through fear and anger that such a concept can flourish the unholy fusion of anger at the past atrocities of slavery, racism, and oppression combined with the fear of the same renewed again. All people are responsible only for their own individual behavior and that of the children they raise. The only path forward for our society is through love, brotherhood & individual responsibility as Dr. King himself put it:
"And herein lies our responsibility. We are not responsible for the environment we are born in, neither are we responsible for our hereditary circumstances. But there is a third factor for which we are responsible namely, the personal response which we make to these circumstances.”
The most important lesson I can ever teach to my three little boys, which I can and must pass on is that while fear can be useful as a motivator to avoid injury or danger, fear of disappointing a loved one can be a positive behavioral force, or the fear of consequences can guide our morality. However, fear is something to keep tamed, curbed, and in check. We must rule our fear, or we can and certainly will be ruled by it, and by those who wield it.
Don't be manipulated into hating your countrymen. Don't be motivated to act outside of the truths you hold to be self-evident. Don't be controlled. Be free my countrymen and #Don'tBeAfraid.
Photo from "We Become What We Behold"