Growing up in the “Boom Years” meant a balancing act between the rightness of victory over evil and the fear that we could see the world at war again. I was taught that there was right and wrong without much in between. The United States, after years of the Great Depression, followed too closely by years of rationing, was now in prosperity and, to my mind, was teaching us that we came to the rescue in the Second World War rather than being part of the problem. A more Euro-conscious historic view has shown that we’ve been up to our necks in the world economies and conflicts for a very long time and, predictably, fear kept us in check as well.
After laughing hysterically over Lewis Black’s commentary on “duck and cover,” what sticks in my mind was that common thread of fear. America had seen the great success in National Socialism when they used fear of the Jews as a powerful motivator, not only for systematic murder of millions, but as a means of control where good people do nothing. Fear of the Russian Menace created millions of makeshift bomb shelters in basements and public buildings with spaces marked “Air Raid Shelter,” backed up with the noonday daily testing of the local siren. Fast forward to Homeland Security and whatever particular form of protection you find egregious and/or an invasion of your privacy – fear. Too many American and Christian politicians also breed fear because it works.
A couple of months ago, my job disappeared. I was called into a meeting with my superiors and sat through my own funeral, complete with a glowing eulogy and heartfelt goodbyes. Prior to that, it was inconceivable that I would become redundant both because of the job I was doing and that no one could it better. As I walked out into the sunshine, half stunned and half aware, I realized that somehow, through it all, I had lost my fear. I drove home conscious that I was never going to live in fear again, not because I had sufficient resources but rather that I had found control over my feelings. The way I was raised and the world I had known hadn’t changed but I had.
I had to teach myself how to play the organ, living with perpetual performance anxiety – no more! I have lived with my AIDS diagnosis and the terror of being without medical care and dying – no more! I feared the loss of my home, my loves and my city from inevitable earthquakes – no more! This final frontier is job loss because, no matter what comes and when, I fear unemployment NO MORE.
Living fearless takes faith in things greater than myself as well as in myself. I live in the awe, wonder and surprise of life because I choose not to fear. And the best consequence is that I also deny access to those who prey on fear. So now ask, who feeds your fears and why?