A FEARFUL NATION
Where has our confidence gone?
Some fear can be healthy. It can also become irrational.
Sixty-two percent of Americans say they have political views they’re afraid to share. Half of Americans have concerns that a major health event could lead to bankruptcy. Nearly two-thirds of Americans fear it will be unsafe to send children back to school this year. Almost half of all registered voters fear having difficulties casting a ballot in the November presidential election.
So much fear in our country today. Too much fear.
But isn’t this America? Where the final line of our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” reminds us that this is the “land of the free and the home of the brave”? Where we are seemingly born with an “I can do that” attitude?
It was almost 80 years ago when President Franklin O. Roosevelt stood to deliver his State of the Union address, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He said, “At no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.” But news reports from that time indicate that Americans responded with more determination than fear, apparently unlike our response today to COVID-19.
So what has changed, exactly? Are we now a society that adores fear, or prefers it, to the predictable? Or are have we surrendered to fear? You know, there’s a German proverb that says, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”
So, has our “modern day” American “fear” culture made the wolf bigger than he is?
Some fear is healthy, of course; don’t get me wrong. It shows us how (and when) to be careful. It helps keep us safe and secure. Often, however, fear is not a logical thought – it’s an irrational emotion.
For example, in a Tennessee school, a teacher fell ill in 1998, reporting symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness and a headache. Almost immediately several of her students started to experience the same, and shortly after that, the rest of the school became “ill.”
The New England Journal of Medicine attributed this outbreak of students to a phenomenon known as “mass psychogenic illness,” which occurs when the fear of infection spreads just as quickly as the disease itself. It was determined that students and staff “had decided that, based on the behavior of those around them, there was a real threat they needed to be afraid of.”
So the “outbreak” in Tennessee demonstrates how fear can scare us all – to the point of sickness – without there actually being any real threat present.
Is this why so many Americans are silent, when they are filled with fear of having divergent opinions from the mob? The problem with that is, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, is that “(o) ur lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Still, there are lots of folks who are afraid. Fearful. Unsure.
But we should all be reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” And of Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Joshua 1:9: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And maybe if we are reminded of this more often, none of us will make the “wolf” any bigger than he actually is.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.