All We Have to Fear is…

A sad story came over the wire this week.  A seventeen year old boy was shot to death. Why? Was he robbing a convenience store or dealing drugs?  No, he was walking home with a bag of skittles.  The man who shot him is not in jail.  The world is already wrapped up in racial accusations and claims for and against the possession and use of guns.  I can’t really add much to the arguments, but I do wonder why these things happen. What could motivate a person to kill a another defenseless human being?  Certainly a cold rage could drive a person there, but I suspect in this case it was…being afraid.

Fear is a powerful emotion.  It drives human beings to make quick and perhaps irrational decisions. Not that is always an unfaithful  servant.  It gives us the stamina to run quickly away from danger, or the strength to turn and fight.  But over time its use has crept from being just a basic source of defense to a haunting specter. What do we fear? Everything.  We fear dying in a plane crash.  We fear losing our jobs.  We fear losing our loved ones.  We fear the commies, the Muslims, the Latinos, the atheists, the rich. We fear the god that our parents told us about. We fear losing everything. Fear becomes us, and slowly it changes our whole perception of the world.  We view the world through a cloud of fear.

Fear killed the young boy in Florida. His mere presence created enough fear in the mind of a misguided man that he felt he had no choice but to shoot him.  Armed with a pistol, he disobeyed the order of a police dispatcher.  he followed the boy rather than let him go.  He feared that his inaction might result in the escape of a criminal.  He feared that justice, as he perceived it, might not be served.  He saw not another human, but a threat.

In the late 90’s I had the fortune to make a couple of business trips to India.  It is a tough place for a westerner.   Hot.  Loud. Noisy.  Smelly.  Congested.  And a good Indian driver cannot move one quarter of a mile without honking the horn on the car.  It is chaos.  The first few days were a combination of utter amazement and total frustration.  I could not wait to leave.

The manufacturing plant I  was working with was about an hour drive from the city where my hotel was located.  Most days I would ride to and from the plant in a car along with one or two engineers from the United States.  We would pass through the countryside, occasionally taking note of the crazy scenes that we passed by.  One day, toward the end of my last visit, I needed to stay late at the plant, and so I made arrangements to ride back to town in a bus with the local engineers who worked at the plant.  It was late in the day when we left, the sun casting long shadows from a blue sky.  As we drove back to town I was lost in my thoughts as I gazed at the families working the fields.  And it occurred to me that as foreign as this place was, it was still full of people.  People just like me.  People who eat, people who work, people pissing and shitting and making love.  People who loved their spouse and their children.  People wanted to make their world a better place.  That moment of clarity is one I will remember as long as my mind cooperates.  People much more like me than different than me.  Sure it is easy to think about the radical Muslim who would be happy to slit my throat because I fail to follow the teachings of the prophet.  Fear will do that to a person. So I choose to reject it.

FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  I say with have nothing to fear but being afraid.

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