Things are pretty tough right now, we know that and I get that. We’ve still got a rather uncertain job market and the stocks are all over the place. There are plenty of concerns about health care, the state of public education, and questions about how we will pay for college (or the student loans that helped us get through). We are experiencing a rapidly shifting cultural climate and many of us are not quite sure how to process the new realities of this ever changing world.
We’ve got natural disasters, we’ve got cases of the plague (like the real, actual plague) being diagnosed here in the United States and we’re gearing up for another flu season. We have stories of school or workplace violence streaming across our televisions on a way too consistent basis and we’re trying to make sense of the reality that our sense of security is less than perhaps it once was. There is a lot going on and there are a lot of questions about what’s coming next and how we will grapple with the things that we hear, see, and experience.
And then something like #Paris happens and we are brought face-to-face with the horrific reality of terrorism once again. It seems like terrorism is all we talk about anymore but it seems that the events that took place in France hit pretty close to home. Perhaps for many of us as we witnessed the violence unfolding last weekend on the streets of Paris we had flashbacks to our own experiences of September 11, 2001. As we watched the casualty count climb and the faces of weeping relatives as they learned the fate of their loved ones we might have thought, “That could have been us….it HAS been us” and we are given a whole new set of questions, a whole new reason to be uncertain, and an entirely valid excuse to be afraid. “What if it happens here?” We ask. “We CANNOT allow it to happen here,” we answer.
And so now we have rededicated ourselves to the pursuit of reaching a point where we can at least convince ourselves that we will be “safe.” The rallying cry of,”We must resist radical Islam,” rises from the midst of the uncertainty and provides a path forward. For many, I suspect, this has been beneficial in a way. When we allow our inner xenophobe to emerge and when we can direct our attention to something tangible, like a human being that doesn’t look like us or worship in the same way we do this allows us to regain a sense of control. We may not be able to control gas prices, but we can keep “those people” out.
But it seems that we have a problem. As we have been seeking to regain a sense of control it seems like we have spiraled even further out of control. In the days since the events in France we have been a nation that is seemingly teetering on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown and fear has become the collective buzzword of the people of this country. Our collective fear has been seized by opportunistic entities such as our news networks and our politicians.
Just last night, the headline of CNN.com read, “ISIS THREATENS NEW YORK.” This of course, caused me to click on an article that described how ISIS has put out a “new” video that basically replays footage that they produced in April. Simply put, there is no new threat…but boy do the news stations want us to believe there is. Why? Because fear sells.
We now have presidential candidates offering possible scenarios where Muslims in this country might be added to a national database or compelled to wear name badges (when did we want to begin emulating 1938 Nazi Germany?). There have been proposals of closing down Mosques (religious freedom, anyone?) and let us not forget that there are currently 31 states that are supposedly refusing to accept Syrian refugees (pro tip: It doesn’t work that way, y’all). Why are our politicians doing this? Because scapegoating works and fear, if spun the right way, provides votes.
We need to ask ourselves a question, “Is this who we want to be?” I mean, we need to take an honest-to-goodness look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we want to be a country and a people that is governed by fear. Do we want to be a country that shuts down places of worship while at the same time providing third grade teachers with pistols? If we say yes, then the terrorists and all others who wish to just watch the world burn have already “won.”
But I refuse to believe that this is actually who we want to be. We can do better, we have done better, and we must do better. This is an uncertain world in which we live, but you know what, this world is also a beautiful place. There are beautiful people doing beautiful things from coast to coast and in every corner of the globe. New medicines are being produced, beautiful works of music are being composed, children are teaching us the power of flowers over guns, Mars is being explored, Christmas is coming, and THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS WON THE WORLD SERIES. There is so much cause for rejoicing and gladness so why do we want to give into the fear? So, what do you say, can we just try not to be so afraid? I think we can do it.
Rev. Aaron Todd serves as the Minister for Education at First Christian Church-Midwest City, OK . Among other things, he focuses on youth, children, young adult, and family ministry. He is married to Debra, who is also a Disciples pastor, and together they have a 3 year old son named Zach and a precious baby boy named Josh. In addition to their human children, they have a 5 year old dog named Amos (named after the prophet). Check out his blog, revaarontodd.com
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