State of Fear


They’re coming. They’re coming for your jobs, your kids, and your guns. They’re coming from without and they’re coming from within. They’re climbing walls, crossing borders, and sneaking through fences. They’re wearing strange clothing and covering their faces and practicing strange religions. They’re talking in unfamiliar tongues. They’re coming with murderous intent and a lustful eye for your children. They’re out to turn your country into a liberal/conservative/socialist/communist/religious paradise. 

They’re treading on you and burning your flag. They’re ripping your constitution into tiny pieces and tossing them into the wind. They’re in control of everything, including the money and who has it. They’re part of a grand conspiracy that reaches back to the crusades. Or the inquisition. Or the industrial revolution. I don’t know, it’s all so confusing. 

But what matters is this: They’re coming to take you away!

Fear is a potent tool. It is used to keep us in line and under control. It starts in childhood when we are threatened with the wrath of some unsettling monster always lurking in the nearby shadows and ready to rip us to shreds. For me and many of my contemporaries, it was the boogieman. Dread of invoking the boogieman’s ire kept me from sassing my mother, disrespecting authority figures, and popping the plastic head off my sister’s Barbie doll. Usually.

The boogieman was the training wheels on our life cycle of conformity through fear. The boogieman was eventually replaced by the ubiquitous, and even more frightening them.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time listening to old wives’ tales filled with fearful warnings. Tales of strangers with ill intent who would lure you into their lairs with lollipops and whisk you away to never again be seen. Stories of lurking stranglers, peeping Toms, and unscrupulous conmen. 

They also spoke of remedies, magic words, incantations, potions, and strange ceremonies to summon spirits that might guard one against these evil forces. I am not talking about witchcraft, but rather that old-time religion on which I was raised.

In elementary school, we were taught to fear the Soviets. We were instructed to duck down and slide our heads beneath our desks in the event of a nuclear attack because the Soviets might come at any moment. We were taught to perform rituals and recite incantations designed to keep our hearts pure, our minds right, and the enemy at bay.

And on it went. 

Every phase of life bringing its own boogieman, and each one of them tied to the spirit of the times. There was the Man, marijuana, “It’s 9:00. Do you know where your children are?”, the FBI’s Most Wanted, backward-masked demonic messages hidden in popular music, the satanic panic, stranger danger, see something say something, Nigerian princes with money to share, terrorism, robocalls, and extreme political partisanship. Always, it is the same message: they’re coming to get us.         

Deep into my fifties, I know this one thing: if they were coming, they would be here by now. Or perhaps they already are here. I have a different take. I think that like the boogieman, theydon’t really exist. They simply act as mechanisms to keep us under control. 

Yes, there are real threats, and we should always be prepared to guard ourselves against them. But actual threats are few, and not nearly as sinister as those they would have us believe. Fear is a natural gift. It protects us and provides a bulwark against real dangers. Fear should be cherished, not misused. Not wielded as cudgel and whip. Fear should never be used to maintain conformity and allegiance. Those should be a function of trust and respect. Of leadership, not leader-sheep.

Think about it!