1.10.2011

Fear infested America

The events in Arizona are not a surprise to anyone who has lived and grown up here in America. In fact, most Black people my age have lived with a collective knot in our stomach since 2008 when Barack Obama was sworn in as president. It will hurt deeply if someone gets close enough to harm him or his family, because while we are used to the constant eruptions of violence, both verbal and physical, from those who fear us, as neighbors, classmates, co workers, supervisors and leaders, it won't be a surprise And no one of us will sleep easily until he safely leaves the White House.

That same fear now surrounds our government, infecting our political discourse, strangling all debate turning any and all difference of opinion into a nasty verbal free for all. All congressmen have been painted as evil and uncaring bastards whose only reason for working on Capital Hill is to enrich themselves at our expense. I am guilty of this myself, having openly wished on this blog for someone to “drop a bomb on Capital Hill” so the country can start over. Being a writer, I fully and completely understand the gravity of my words. I was thinking nuclear, knowing full well the near impossibility of my vision. But I take full responsibility for what comes out of my mouth and like most, should sometimes tone it down, or write after I've cooled off a bit. Civility, empathy and understanding should always guide what we do toward each other.

Congresswoman Giffords is a victim of our collective refusal to tone down the public discourse. She was targeted in the past for her vocal support for Health Care Reform. Following her vote she was vilified, and the windows of her office were shot out in 2009. Anyone who agrees with the “other” side is “defriended” on Facebook, or forced to undergo an electronic lynching or smear campaign via the internet, for all to see. Now, I guess, they risk being killed for speaking out and exercising their first amendment rights.

24 hour news is filled with  so called pundits who make millions of dollars spewing vitriol against any issue and any person, solely in the name of profit, power and ratings. What this ultimately leads to is the lesser brains among us, who don't distinguish between literal and figurative speech...between hyperbole and calls to action. This is the dangerous world in which we live. The crescendo of hyperbole has reached deadly ear shattering levels and must be silenced.

It's not just political rhetoric. It's all things, like the weather for instance. One word from the local weatherman can cause a stampede on grocery or hardware stores, or cause airlines to cancel flights before the planes are affected by bad weather. Pitchmen daily attempt to scare everyone into buying insurance....life insurance... pet insurance...health insurance....flood insurance. Parents are cautioned to strap their two year olds to a chair in front of a computer and drill them for hours on the latest baby genius program or risk having your little einstein fail to get into kindergarten. Hyperbole needs to be dialed down in all phases of our lives. Is it any wonder that heart attack is the leading cause of death among human beings?

The treadmill of fear keeps us running away from each other, running from our neighbors in other countries, branding anyone with a different skin color, culture or religion as the enemy to be smashed and destroyed rather than met with compassion, understanding and welcome. 

The events in Arizona should lead us to ask the question of when is enough, enough? When do we stop trying to solve every problem with violent acts? When do we stop fearing each other and start working toward common goals? It is not a game or sporting event or war. It is not a competition. The person who ends up with the most toys doesn't win....he or she dies like the rest of us...It is our life, people and like it or not, there are 5 billion of us sharing this planet. We all need to get a grip.

My thoughts, prayers and blessings go out to the Congresswoman, her family...the families of the victims and the wounded. May you find peace....
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