Fear

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It is one of those places you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based in the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

We talked with our daughter about her thoughts on Sandy Hook. Mostly she described the reactionary intruder drill the school held the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one teacher and the room had too many windows. They had the kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because its as useful as  “duck & cover.”

When she identified other rooms & teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.” We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. Its useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. Its not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

Its so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I am much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office. That just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office by the way.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”. Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

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