“ Fear is the father of courage.” – Henry H. Tweedy
America’s courage is running on empty…and because of the high cost at the pumps, it doesn’t look like we’ll be refilling it anytime soon. We used to be a people who could look any problem in the eye, stare it down, and overcome it. But that was when times were better; and we had confidence in ourselves, in our institutions, and in our government. That was before the repercussions of our many failures punched us in the stomach and knocked us to the ground. Now we feel and look every bit our 236 years, suddenly too tired to get up and fight back.
Worse than being down, we are distrustful of those around us whom we perceive to have caused our problems and who seem to have emerged from them unscathed. We have divided ourselves into two groups: the 1% and the 99%, the haves and the have-nots. We are suspicious of others who think differently, often perceiving them as the enemy. At the government level this plays out as a standoff, where both parties remain diametrically opposed to each other and where our leaders fear acting ethically or telling the truth because it might cost them an election.
Social networks like Twitter and Google+ aren’t immune from this paranoia where sometimes humorous political observations or alternate ideas can stir up a barrage of angry responses, including comments like “Take a hike!” or actions like Unfollowing, Uncircling, or Blocking, virtual slaps in the face. It seems we have lost our openness to other types of thinking and our tolerance for anything different, qualities that enable creativity, growth, and greatness.
It is often said that we can change this world one person at a time, but to do so means more than just the utterance of this platitude. It requires respect of differences, especially those differences that make us uncomfortable or angry. It requires staying power, the ability to stick out interactions that challenge our beliefs. It requires the courage to believe in the goodness of others. Fellow Americans are not our enemy…our fear is.