Fear creeping in

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Where I’m at: Arlington (t-minus 18 days to Brazzaville…if all goes well)

What I’m doing: feeling America’s fear, albeit manifested differently

Why I’m posting: “a post a day”…would be a 10,000 fold increase


Last week, terror struck in Tuscon. Tragedy, definitely, as I would imagine nearly all know by now. A Congresswoman shot at point blank range – miraculously surviving – and nearly two dozen others shot, many dying, including a federal judge (which perhaps gets to me even more than the shooting of the Congresswoman – though only slightly – because of the presumed independence of the judiciary). That gunmen was stupid, senseless, and horrible. Cowardly acts don’t make a revolution.

But as I said, terror also struck, and probably struck more broadly since it affects all of us, not just those at the end of the gun sights. I purposefully didn’t comment at length on all of this last week (as well as the many other newsworthy stories recently) because I didn’t think I could control my emotions. I’ve widely quoted Eugene Debbs’ comments from U.S. v Debbs when he stated, “Gentleman, I abhor war. I would oppose the war if I stood alone.” And while he was speaking of the World War, I often paraphrase this quote to apply to guns and fighting generally.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been in fights and I have fired guns (though not since losing my father and hopefully never again), and I can appreciate the power that one feels at that moment. But it is precisely that power that is terrifying to me. Terrifying because people mistake it for confidence, righteousness, and something other than simply a short cut to win arguments that they are too cowardly to fight with their words and a lifetime of action. And so far from simply seeing the terror in that Arizona gunchild, I see that terror in our reactions – politically and otherwise. Sadly, that terror isn’t uniquely American. I suppose that a belief in everlasting life permits a potentially cathartic feeling to someone as they douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze in front of a Parliament, as demonstrators (not terrorists) did in the last week in Tunis, Cairo, and Ouagadougou. Nevertheless, it shows fear rather than fearlessness.

And it manifests itself in many ways. My chief fear at this moment is (perhaps sadly) that I won’t pass my French exam next Thursday and that I won’t be sent out to post for another month or two. But I realize that my fear is just a reflection of my desires to get out and do my job and try to continue to better the world and protect America and others. Yet I know this fear isn’t because of an Arizonan nutjob (note: not a dig at Sen. McCain). It was present before that, as it has been for many. It’s not terrorism. It’s not government. These things are escalators perhaps, but not relevant to all the world. I suppose Sartre would say existence…but is existentialism even relevant anymore? Maybe it’s the fear that Google will soon run our lives. Actually, that would make organization a bit easier.

So where is this fear creeping in from? And how best to address it? Seal ourselves off (by country, by individual?)? Find the source?  Help!!!


Who said it: Sidney Poitier, whose passing I didn’t blog about. Sorry, Sidney.

Why it’s relevant: well, something has to be relevant about this post. Pointing out my error is always relevant.

The quote: “So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.”

  1. I would love to do my best to answer the question you posed, but I am afraid that I can’t do that because I can’t accept (what I take to be) your premise. It may be true that there is more fear in the world now than there was perhaps 4 years ago. A major economic crisis and a great tragedy in recent memory will do that though. Historically speaking, it seems to me that we are still in a historic low in terms of fear. I would say that there is less fear now than there was on 9/12/01, or at pretty much any point during the cold war, or any time between the start of WWI and the end of WWII, etc.

    The great powers of the world have recently been more united in responding to great crises than they have ever been in history. They were largely unified in their response to 9/11 (at least until the proposition of invading Iraq divided them). They mostly responded to the economic near-catastrophe of 2008 without erected trade barriers, as they did in 1929, exacerbating the Great Depression.

    Humanity has now managed to abstain from nuking each other for nearly 65 years, despite many countries with many differences possessing the ability to do so.

    So, perhaps I am just a naive optimist, but I saw the response of most people to the tragedy in Arizona as one of love, not fear. The media, of course, profits more if people respond with fear, so that was played up quite a bit. But I think that the extremely positive response to President Obama’s speech demonstrates that most people felt a sense of love and togetherness in the wake of the tragedy, rather than one of fear.

    Of course, there was certainly fear mixed in, and in a somewhat perverse way, one encourages the other. But it seems to me that we are still in pretty good shape in terms of fear.

    • Shoes, I think you’re right on. I’d agree that if there seemed to be a premise in that rambling post, that it was as you said it. In which case, I’d disagree, too. I do think that we’re near an historic fear-low in world terms. To think that nations that regularly detested the mere notion of having to be in the same room at points in history all generally work together on most things is amazing. I think our particular backgrounds in international law helps solidify that notion for us.

      The post was really more about my own fears creeping in, which I saw mirrored in the fear of that gunman and in the reactions of some others (like that Congressman who proposed a law making it a crime to have a gun within 1000 ft of a representative. What?!). Creeping in because it hasn’t been there or hasn’t been visible lately. While parts of the rest of the world haven’t yet, the U.S. has generally bounced back (eventually) very well to 9/11 and the economic crises. We got angry, paranoid, angry, resentful, accusatory, and eventually started to be reflective and work hard together again.

      Anyway…nice response, Shoes. Keep tearing it up at Lipkin & Higgins (& Suszek).

  2. I think maybe people fear you leaving America.

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