When did we become so damn scared? When did fear overtake us? Was it on 9/11? Why is everyone so afraid of Donald Trump? Or, why is everyone so afraid of Hillary Clinton?
Fear is nothing I would use to describe either one of them.
It isn’t just the Presidential race which strikes fear in our hearts.
I woke up this morning and turned on my phone to see a live-news feed detailing the dismantling of “The Jungle” in Calais, France.
This notorious refugee camp has been home to upwards of 9,000 people in the last few years. I visited it earlier this year.
As the live video streamed I saw a variety of comments offered by FB viewers – some of them very disturbing and including comments about “send them all back,” “Go Trump!” and various other comments dehumanizing the occupants of the camp and saying how the refugees, many feared, were the worst of the Syrians who were coming here to live off of us for free – or terrorize us.
The fear factor of things people don’t understand is overwhelming.
It doesn’t matter if factually their fear is accurate, it is their fear and they are fearful they’re in fear. Roosevelt told us we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Today politicians tell us we should fear the Russians, the Syrians, terrorists and a variety of people with skin that isn’t white so they ain’t right.
My father, who was my first life coach and my first football coach, taught me a different lesson – football taught me we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves – a lesson Christianity and other religions say they teach but those religions actually teach us to shun those who think differently than we do.
My dad taught me while I may not know or like the guy standing next to me, “You’re damn sure going to respect him as a fellow human being.”
With the respect came understanding. And with understanding came the ability to function as a team.
The epitome of fear running through our culture and the essence of my father’s teachings came to us via a comedy sketch-routine on Saturday Night Live during an episode of “Black Jeopardy.”
Tom Hanks, wearing a Donald Trump hat and looking like a typical redneck made us laugh with what for some will be an inconvenient truth- Black people and white people have more in common than they know.
Or, if you prefer, as Warren Beatty said in “Bulworth” – “white people have more in common with black people than rich people.” But the rich people prey on the simple fear poor white people have had since the wealthy plantation owners tried to justify the Civil War with the “State’s rights” argument. Poor whites have always felt that they’ve had it fairly bad – but at least they’re not black.
That fear drives most racism. Fear drives our tactics against ISIS. It drives the comments made on a live video stream about refugees trying to start over again.
“All refugees are bums just trying to prey on the commonwealth.” (Actually those are CEOs who never pay taxes).
“Blacks are criminals who want to destroy our way of life. Police are our enemies. Muslims want to blow us up. White people are devils set to destroy anything they can’t conquer.”
As we slowly succumb to our fear, we doubt facts and motives. We wear our fear as a comfortable overcoat. It’s ugly but it keeps us comfortable.
In “Defending Your Life,” Albert Brooks told us that our life is little more than trying to overcome our fears. “Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything – real feelings, true happiness, real joy.”
On this, he may not be far from the truth.
Everywhere I look I see people afraid – afraid of other religions, other cultures, other people, different thoughts, choices and above all we’re afraid of just how free we really are. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We should respect everyone despite race, creed or color and quit being so damned afraid of everything.
After I visited the refugee camp outside of Calais my heart went out to those struggling for something better. They don’t want handouts. They want a hand extended in friendship so they can earn a life. They want what we all want.
I wish we all acted like my father taught his team to act.
I wish we’d grow up. I am tired of the constant rhetoric which claims we can be “great again.” We are now. We have the ability to be far closer to accomplishing our goals as a culture if we smiled a bit than if we adopted the national rhetoric I’ve heard recently.
Give up the fear. What are you so damned afraid of?