OP-ED: Fear Itself

By Noah Goldfarb

Once upon a time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a speech about an attack on U.S. soil by an outside power. During this speech, he made a statement regarding the concept of fear which has been quoted, requoted, re-requoted, and misquoted about a million times since.

But still, somehow, we as a country refuse to heed his advice, to realize the importance of what FDR said, not just in relation to Pearl Harbor, but in relation to everyday life as American citizens. FDR’s sentiment about fear, and the danger of fearing fear, is perhaps no more poignant than after the nation experiences a traumatic event.

Several weeks ago in San Bernardino, CA, a married couple opened fire during a party at the Inland Regional Center, killing a number of partygoers and injuring many more. The woman, an immigrant from Pakistan, had reportedly sworn allegiance to Daesh prior to the attack.

This attack has proved traumatizing not only to those personally affected, but to the United States as a whole. This event comes less than a week after three were killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic, making many Americans believe that mass violence is no longer a rare occurrence, but simply a part of modern life.

It is so easy to look at the trends, to watch the news and seemingly see a new mass shooting each and every week. It is so easy to become desensitized to such events, to take a look at the news ticker, say “Oh, darn, not again,” and switch over to the next channel. And it is so easy to sit down in front of the TV, watch the death tolls as they creep upwards, and worry.

Life wasn’t always like this; people didn’t go on killing sprees on a seemingly daily basis. And it is only getting worse. Whatever reform you support–whether it be for mental health, gun control, or for the prison system–it is simply not getting passed by our government.

The terrifying reality extends further than body counts. It extends to how these attacks affect the minds of everyday Americans, of the three hundred million citizens who feel unsafe in their daily lives. Suddenly, it seems that nowhere is safe: college campuses, movie theaters, and even kindergarten classrooms have been tainted by the crazed or demented individuals who seek to create terror.

So here is my call to you, the American citizen (or, in the light of the Paris attacks, citizens of the world):

Don’t let your fear get the best of you.

Don’t for one second allow yourself to compromise your morals or your beliefs out of worry. Don’t let yourself feel unsafe in your own home or community, and don’t let this nation’s youth grow up in a society of fear.

It isn’t about “not letting the terrorists win.” It is about staying true to the values that this country was founded on, and staying true to who we are as individuals.

The events which have been occurring are scary, there is no question about that. But what is even scarier is what they have the ability to do. They have the ability to turn us into people we aren’t. They lead to racism and much more. But only if we let them.

We make choices about how we view our own world. We can look at the society we live in through lenses of trust or distrust. Despite the traumatic events in California, we need to realize that, for the most part, the world is not out to get us. The average person on the street is, as a general rule of thumb, good. It is when we forget this that we forget what ties us together as a community.

Forgetting the general good nature of people leads to a vicious cycle. We become more skeptical of humanity, and in return, humanity becomes more skeptical of itself.

Are there things in this world which are scary? Do some people do things that are unthinkable, that go against all the values which we are raised to think of as “good”?

The answer to both questions is “absolutely.”

But here is my plea, my desperate cry for sanity in this insane world:

Remember that people are good, and that, for the most part, we live very safe lives.

If you want these horrendous events to stop happening, then work to stop them before they happen. Petition for whatever reform you believe is necessary, write your Congresspeople, and reach out to those who need guidance.

But whatever you do, please don’t be so quick to give up on that perfectly childlike ideal that the world is chock-full of good people. For every person who seeks to create terror, there are a million who want to help those around them.

The best thing for us to do in a situation like this is simple: Just make sure that at the end of the day, you can look in the mirror and count yourself as one of the good guys.

Sure it takes some dose of bravery, but us Americans always have been, and always will be, brave people.

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