I used to buy t-shirts with the No Fear logo. Remember those? I think I got them at Penney's. I don't wear a lot of logo shirts, I'm kind of plain in my clothing. But I wore those. Was I trying to make a statement back then? Maybe. I don't have them any more but I think it's time to break them out again. But I'm afraid they are all gone.
Living in those times, you know, the 90's, we had fears. There was still some nuclear war fear, fear of wars in the middle east, fear of Russia perhaps, which is on the rise again, fear of AIDS, etc. Plenty of fear for everyone. How did we survive it all? Yellowstone hasn't exploded, Russia hasn't invaded, Social Security is still sending checks, though I don't know how. We've had housing crashes, stock market crashes, countries go bankrupt, epidemics rage and terror spread. Through it all, we're still here, most of us anyhow.
The internet, marvelous thing that it is, aided some of this fear to flourish. News and tv did the same. I have an app on my phone that lets me know if someone is having a medical crisis in real time. Such instant spread of fear is available to us today and it can be overwhelming.
With the presidential election days away, people have been so fearful that I have felt myself fighting back the fear. It's hard to find a political leaning in my heart and mind, but I can't escape the fears of many around me. Some folks are seriously talking about moving to Canada, no matter who is our next president. One, I'm not sure they will take you, two, do you really mean that you want to leave this land we call America? Sorry Canada, no offense meant.
Decisions and actions based on fear are often regrettable. Back in the 80's, there was a front page article in the Wichita paper, Wichita Will Run Out Of Water In 15 Years. A half million people were going to be awfully thirsty in the 90's. It never happened. And I began to wonder about the life of the Predictors and the Fear that they employ. They should have been thinking about Michigan in hindsight and their water problems.
The historians give us a lot of ammunition to combat fear. They describe for us what really has gone wrong in the world, and from that, we can be vigilant about what might go wrong again. They also temper our rash reactions to the fears of our day by giving us more information and conclusions about what has happened before and how we might respond again.
American is really an infancy as far as Democracy goes. We are still figuring it out. I've got a feeling that no people or country has ever got it totally right or ever will. Jefferson had some great ideas for America, so did Adams and Hamilton. They did not always agree, but they continued the experiment. Jefferson in particular did not seem afraid. He seemed very optimistic.
Andrew Burstein recently became a professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa after years of international trade work in China. His first book,The Inner Life of Thomas Jefferson, was published last year.
I think Burstein is calling to us to find optimism as well, at this point in our young democracy. I share that quote from him, a learned historian, to challenge your thinking. 2 months from now, after the election, a year from now, will our fears come true or will we be above them, beyond them?
There is plenty to be afraid of out there today, no doubt. I just believe that we need not stay in a state of fear in order to face those threats, we need to get a grip on those fears and figure out what really matters and put our shoulder into it and our mind at work. History tells us this will happen as well, it always has.
Now, where did I put those TShirts? No Fear.