Fear is a formidable opponent

October 13, 2016

Santa Fe/October 2016

“I no longer pay attention to news about the presidential election,” my husband said the other day, “because there’s not a single thing that’s going to make me vote for Trump. Nothing.”

I can’t disagree. My mind is made up, as well and I’m weary of the headlines, the conspiracy theories, the constant stream of social media posts from friends who are really just preaching to people like themselves, people who already believe one way or another. The chances of any of these masturbatory posts changing a mind are, well, slim to none.

Balm for the soul

It’s been a relief to see other kinds of posts in my feed: the happy wedding of a lovely young woman with whom I used to work, babies being born and growing up, former students applying for jobs, friends taking off for foreign parts, books being published, nephews traveling, even the brave, life-goes-on world of a too-young widow friend. The stuff of every day life is welcome balm for a soul overloaded with, well, crap. Do I need to see Robert Deniro’s video posted 25 times in a single afternoon? I agree with him. There’s no new information there. People who agree with him will respond, “Word!” and those who don’t will say “I hate when these Hollywood types think they can tell us how to vote.”

Blah blah blah.

Over dinner we discussed the political climate with savvy friends who worked in the thick of it for decades.

They’re afraid

“It’s all about fear,” one said. “People are afraid. They’re in dire straits–no jobs, a high cost of living — they want their lives to improve. Trump supporters think that he’ll solve all their problems and bring jobs back to the U.S.  Those jobs are never coming back and if they do, people wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of goods produced here. What Trump voters don’t see is that they’ll be far worse off if he’s elected.”

Looking around the table I saw that none of us was born into families flush with privilege. One is an ethnic minority. Two of us are women. Only one hasn’t faced some kind of bias based on gender or ethnicity. All of us bootstrapped to one degree or another, falling on hard times to a greater or lesser degree, but still pulling ourselves back up. We paid for our own educations with research or teaching assistantships, clerkships and part-time jobs and each of us has at least one graduate degree.

We’ve all been around the block a time or two in jobs big and small and as a result, we’ve all developed excellent critical thinking skills. We know the difference between campaign rhetoric and actual power to help change things.  Which is why we’re all voting for Hillary.

Facing reality

Critical thinking is what allows people to see through the empty promises on all sides, weigh the pros and cons and understand what can actually be fixed and what can’t.

Sitting outside drinking coffee at the Santa Fe Farmers Market I struck up a conversation with a man about our age. He’d lived all over the world and talked about how difficult it was to see the state of his country when he came home years ago, and how shocking what’s going on in our political realm is. His deep concern for our country was obvious in his eyes. We talked for some time before we picked up our bags of produce and went home.

Concern is all around us and that’s why so many of us are posting and reposting things we believe could make a difference. But of course, it’s unlikely. The real opponent here is fear.

Fear subsides when it’s addressed by critical thinking. We can’t make people think critically if they haven’t developed the skill.

A teacher who belongs to a group of California social studies educators trying to instill critical thinking skills in their students saw my recent post here on critical thinking and asked if she could use it in a newsletter to those teachers. I agreed instantly and am reassured to know that there are more educators than I knew out there working hard to teach young people how to think.

And so the beat goes on. The so-called political “revelations” continue to come out, that idiot Assange is still trying to get attention by wreaking havoc, That crazy Glenn Beck endorsed HRC in what has to be the strangest, back-handed compliment in politics. I still see hundreds of identical political posts from social media friends who think like I do. Even though it will mean the end of our five weeks in Santa Fe, I want Election Day to be over.

Until then, I take refuge in the stuff of every day life: cute dog photos, pretty fall colors, the courage of people recovering from hurricane damage, the strength of those fighting serious illnesses and the inspiration of those acting in loving service to the world around us.

26 comments on “Fear is a formidable opponent
  1. Yes, to everything…and most importantly, how do we get to live in Sante Fe for five weeks, one of my favorite places. Here’s a fun thing, a friend called us last night and said they had a friend who had to cancel a 5 star trip to the Kentucky Derby next year and would we like to go, just for the price of airfare?!??!? See? Fun Stuff…happening!!!

  2. Kelly says:

    I can’t tell you the number of times that I have scrolled past a post on social media because I have learned that I cannot change anyone’s mind or even make them think. There are so many fake websites claiming to be news and people claiming to be journalists that people believe. I just sit on my hands and keep telling myself that no amount of reasoning will change their minds. Occasionally I post something about a fact checking website, but I know deep down that if it doesn’t confirm their preconceived ideas, they will not believe it. I understand philosophical differences – I just wish we could have reasonable discussions about them without it devolving into nastiness.

  3. hillsmom says:

    Getting an absentee ballot in order to avoid the rest of the orange drivel. Yes, I’ll be done and won’t have to wait in line at our too small polling place. Also I can wash the bad slime of this election cycle out of my mouth. Now if I could just “un-see” it.
    Yes, Kelly above has a good idea, too.

  4. Lee Gaitan says:

    Fear-based decisions are almost always the wrong way to go and the consequences come back to bite you in the long run. Crossing my fingers and looking at puppy photos because I’m weary like you!

  5. Barbara says:

    At my age, this is not my first rodeo but it’s the only one where I feel like I’m on the bucking bull and the damn clown keeps taunting. I cannot wait for it to be over and for him to disappear but, I worry about the radical wackos he’s incited and what they might wreak on the country when he’s gone.

  6. Jena Proctor says:

    I am so ready for this election to be over as well. It is a mess and it is tearing our nation apart.

  7. Ronnie says:

    I noted something interesting the other day while reading through a Facebook thread and it fits what you said. People from both sides think that Armageddon itself will come if the opposing political party is voted in. This whole campaign is based on fear and people are buying into it. It’s sad to see from abroad since the whole campaign looks more like some reality show circus than voting for the leader of a powerful country responsible for hundreds of millions of people!

  8. Amber Myers says:

    Yes, I am SO ready for the election to be over. It seems to be bringing out the worst in people.

  9. Fear is a powerful force that canhold us back from living our true authentic self and experience life to the fullest. I know what it feels like living with it but letting it go is certainly more rewarding and liberating!

  10. Crystal gard says:

    Fear based decisions are the worst to make yet are made so often.

  11. I hear you this election has been horrible too much negativity. I honestly have removed myself form the process because I cannot take it anymore. I just hope whatever happens in America that God help us for anything coming our way.

  12. Elizabeth O. says:

    Sometimes I dread logging in to facebook because I’m absolutely tired of seeing all the political posts. No amount of convincing will make me change my mind as well. Enough is enough and I just can’t wait to go out and vote and get this election over with so life can be normal again.

  13. DogVills says:

    Fear can be good or bad. As long as our nation is strong and we are united, fear has nothing to do with it.

  14. Amanda says:

    I am ready for my social media to be past election talk!

  15. Samantha says:

    This is really hard. Our options are limited but if we dont do anything are we really helping? It is hard to see the different voices and fights going on right now.

  16. Facebook mostly shows me posts of friends with similar views, which can feel reassuring. Then I come across posts from “the other side” and I have to admit I feel taken aback. I agree, I can’t wait until the election is over. So close.

  17. candy says:

    Stop the hand outs, I have been voting for 36 years non of them have listened to the people. They pander and say what people want to hear while lining their own pockets. We are self sufficient and have always paid our own way or done without.

  18. I don’t vote, I know I should but do they really listen to the people?

  19. Leanne says:

    These elections seem to have put everyone on edge – the devil and the deep blue sea come to mind! I’m a million miles away and it’s still all over my facebook. I’ll be glad when it all settles back down to a simmer and I’m all for baby and kitten and puppy pics!

  20. I haven’t participated in any social media discussions about the upcoming election and scroll past the rants on both sides. I have stayed informed but with boundaries around how much I can be exposed in any given day to the media as it is so negative. This is not to say I don’t care, but I care more about my own serenity. I’m not big on kitten posts either but I’m a sucker for the puppies! 🙂

  21. Anna Palmer says:

    Nothing to fear but fear itself…and the eroding of trust in our democratice system. But ignore that last part.

  22. Jennifer says:

    The only present I ask for on my birthday is for HRC to be elected by a landslide.

  23. Silly Mummy says:

    Yes, this is an interesting area. I do completely see where the people who say that it is pointless to keep restating a view point or promoting things that support it as it won’t change anyone’s minds are coming from. I do get that. Mostly you get support from those who already agreed with you, and those who don’t won’t be swayed. However, I still do it, for two reasons really. Firstly, there are always people out there who have not made up their minds either way. Secondly, I think it is actually pretty well established that people tend to crave validation and support. As such, I think if you believe in something strongly it does make sense to keep showing that belief – yes, you are mostly only reaching those who agree with you, but you are validating and supporting them by doing so and that keeps the belief going. It’s how people believe others agree with and support them. Without that, people start to believe they are alone and often lose motivation, and the ideology itself starts to lose momentum and cohesion. Negative beliefs, like those held by the Nazis, for example, tend to rely very heavily on creating a group mentality and people believing they are in it together. To counter such ideologies, I do think those against them need the same feeling of community and passion for what they believe, and sharing it helps to encourage that.

    What do you think? Have a come up with a convincing sounding excuse for being one of those annoying people constantly posting political stuff?! 😉

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