On being ... scared

By Ingrid Sapona

In the U.S., fear was the main news story all week. With over 182,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 since March, it’s not surprising that fear is rising, right? But the coronavirus, which barely seems to register with most Americans these days, wasn’t the source of fear that was featured on the nightly news.

The fear that was the focus this week is fear that’s being fabricated by politicians to suit their own purposes. It’s based on mis-characterizations and outright lies and it’s meant to sow division, discord, and hatred. It’s a tried and true technique straight out of the dictator playbook. Those in power foment distrust and create havoc and then sweep in with force – whether government agents or surrogate militia – that they control.

While it’s easy to gloss over law and order rallying cries coming out of a political campaign as mere rhetoric, doing so during a time of crisis – both economic and medical – is reckless. Furthermore, not recognizing the danger of such talk adds insult to injury for people from marginalized groups. I’m not much into professional sports, but the most eloquent comments about the campaign of fear came from LA Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers in an interview after an NBA playoff game. Rivers said, “You know, what stands out to me just watching the Republican convention and they’re spewing this fear. … All you hear Donald Trump and all of them talking about [is] fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot… and all you do is keep hearing about fear.”

While the truth of what Rivers was pointing out was powerful, it’s what he said next about the shooting of Jacob Blake that really drove home the profound emotional toll that accompanies the physical violence blacks face. He said, “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. And, it’s just really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach and I’m so often reminded of my colour. It’s just really sad. … We protest and they send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. They go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops and nothing happens. … I didn’t want to talk about it before the game because it’s just so hard. Just keep watching it. Just keep watching that video. If you watch that video – you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged. And how dare the Republicans talk about fear? We’re the ones that need to be scared…”

On being … is meant to be an examination of human nature. I try to tell a story about my thoughts and feelings in an effort to prompt a reaction in the reader. My hope is that your reaction to my take on things may lead you to think about how you may be feeling or behaving.

I hesitated to write today’s column because I think some readers may be turned off because they’ll see it as being about politics. That’s not my intention – today’s column isn’t motivated by politics. It’s rooted in my deep feelings of fear – fear about the future of America. I’m scared for the future of a country where lying is perfectly acceptable, where things of consequence are written off as a hoax, where vigilantes are encouraged to engage in violence, and where invocations of the rule of law are a farce.

I’ve been feeling sadness about all these things for some time, but this week I realized my sadness has turned to fear. So, I’ve been reflecting on ways of coping with my fear. I decided I must own up to my fear and talk about it – and write about it. So, when I realized this, I couldn’t not write today’s column.

To those politicians who want to use fear as a motivator, I say bring it on. I’ve decided I’m going to let my fear motivate me to stand up against racism, injustice, and tyranny – and to invite others to join me. Perhaps by doing so, folks who may be sitting by quietly – in fear of backlash or in hopes of avoiding uncomfortable situations – will find courage too.

What about you? Are you feeling afraid these days? If so, what’s behind it? Is it based on something real, or is it fabricated fear planted by some politician? What coping strategies will you employ to combat the fear?

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona




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