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By Sara S. Nichols, RScP student at Holmes Institute
Sacramento, CA --Today marks the 9th Anniversary of the attack by Al-Quaida on the United States. In the intervening period, it seems that the politics and culture of fear in the United States has escalated. I am writing this statement today to declare that nine years of fear was enough; let’s spend the next decade living in hope.
From 2001 to 2010 our government responded to and accelerated fear through an erosion of our civil liberties: the right to free speech, the right to assemble, the right to travel, the right to counsel, the right to confront your accusers, and the right to privacy all have been abridged, trampled upon and narrowed by the U.S. government in the name of safety from “terror.” As a result it is harder to travel, harder to protest government actions, harder to communicate freely and above all harder to trust each other.
At the same time, a culture of parenting from a position of fear has taken hold. “Helicopter” parents hover over their children’s every move. Rather than being given the increasing freedom that growing older used to naturally bring, many of today’s children are prevented from walking or biking to school or friends’ houses. They are in constant contact with their parents and others through electronic devices. They often spend most of their non-school hours glued to television, computers and video games rather than engaging in imaginative play, or being outdoors. Those children who parents keep them active often pursue punishing schedules with an endless array of sports, lessons, and prescribed commitments. A “good” parent worries about car safety, food safety, air safety, safety, safety, safety.
And yet as author Barry Glassner shows us in his book The Culture of Fear, we’re quite capable of sustaining a level of fear irrespective of the actual statistics. In one recent period, as perception of crime anddanger escalated among Americans, the same period actually brought falling crime, increased life expectancy, and fewer “killer kids,” to our lives. Our perception and consciousness of danger as a society is all out of proportion with the truth. In other words, we are afraid, but we have little to be afraid of? Why is this and what can we do about it?
One tool for living from hope instead of fear is to get grateful for what we have, and the way things are. Most Americans’ lives are pretty good. Most of us have a roof over our head, food on our table, a bed to sleep on and no one is shooting at us and someone loves us. Do we take those things for granted or do we take time to notice and appreciate them every day? What about hot water, indoor toilets, stable government, the right to vote? Do we count those as blessings? Or do we gripe about how we need hotter water, a new toilet, and more ethical politicians while we fail to exercise our hard-won right to vote?
Most of us have been given no real reason to live in fear. Millions of people are like me: no one has ever threatened me with a gun, beaten me, raped me, or hurt my children (or me when I was a child). The newspapers and the television continue to follow the edict, “if it bleeds, it leads” in determining what stories to tell. I can open the newspaper every day and see ongoing coverage of trials of serial killers, high-profile kidnappings, macabre happenings. Yet these incidents are just that, incidents, they don’t tell me anything about the pattern of the world. They don’t tell me anything about what’s actually true in my experience; or what even is the aggregate truth.
Even though the news can sometimes be depressing, I do read and think it’s important to read, the stories about what our government or other governments are doing about global climate change, homelessness, war, ending hunger, etc. I also read books laying out the real problems we face and what can be done about them.
It is my strong belief that God never gives a vision without a provision. There is more than enough creativity in the world to solve every one of our problems in a new way. That’s one of the reasons we call our movement “new thought.” We live in an abundant, creative universe. There is enough food in the world to feed the hungry. There is enough housing in the world to house the homeless. There are enough teachers and other resources to provide high quality education to everyone. There is enough to be done and enough money to do it for there to be jobs for everyone. There is enough love in the world to make everyone feel and know that they are whole, perfect and complete exactly as they are.
And when people are fed, housed, taught, employed and loved, there is no reason for war; there is no reason for killings or kidnappings; there is no reason for violence. We create our own lack of security from our minds. When we focus on lies, on what we don’t have, on what isn’t working, instead of on truth, on what we do have, and on what works, it breeds a culture of fear, it breeds attacks, it breeds terrorism.
The worst terrorism that we commit is on a daily basis in our own minds. On this, the 9th anniversary of 9/11, it is time to lay down our arms against our selves and our fellow man. It is time to have the courage to live with an undefended heart, in a spirit of love and forgiveness. It is time to cultivate the spirit of peace exemplified by Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. It is time to end the culture of fear.