Home of the Brave?

flag-dayFear. Four letters. Fear doesn’t look so scary as word on a page. Manifested in real-life though fear can be very scary indeed. Fear can drive us and paralyze us. Fight or flight, fear causes that adrenaline rush to run away or fight the peril or freeze into a state of doing nothing. Fear shuts out love and amplifies hate. Fear manipulates and controls us. Fear urges me to say “yes” when I really should say “no.” It causes me to say “no” when what I really want to say is “yes.”  It causes me to doubt and second guess. It inhibits me and holds me back.  What do I fear? Being judged by others as not good enough? Thin enough? Smart enough? Kind enough? Not having enough? Loneliness? Emptiness? Not being able to provide for mybchildren? Spiders and snakes?  All. Of. The. Above.  But why?

I don’t consider myself to be a religious zealot or a political fanatic. I don’t align as a pure conservative or pure liberal. On a dating profile (yet another interesting topic, but I digress), I once listed myself as a “free thinker” and I think that is apt. Typically I stay away from topics of politics and religion as conflict is not my comfort zone. However, after reading this article, “Love Thy Neighbor,” I found I could not remain silent. The words and thoughts on this subject won’t let me rest. The keep playing over and over in my head, compelling me to release them and send them out into the cyber world. So here they are, these words and ideas that are mine, but are not me. As I am no more my hand or my foot or my face than I am my thoughts and words or opinions. This is my opinion. And so, I let go of that fear and write.

When I hear or read the words, “America First” or “Make America Great Again” I feel ill. My stomach turns and I feel sad.  When hasn’t America been first? Do we as Americans really need to be afraid of being second? Seriously. When hasn’t America been great?  Isn’t it the reason why people from other countries want to come here? To follow the American dream? Who would want to come to a place that isn’t great? I am a truly blessed woman.  I was lucky enough to be born in the United States of America to two caring parents that took me to church on Sundays and provided a loving home for me. I graduated from high school. I went to college. I have food on my table. I have a roof over my head. I have a car that I drive to work every morning. If I get sick, I call the doctor. I have a wonderful family and good friends. The only way I could have been luckier would have been if I’d been born with a penis. That’s reality. My reality. Not everyone is so lucky. I know this. I could just as easily of been born in Syria or Cambodia or North Korea.

Fear has led America to put a man in power who is probably even more fearful than I. (Why else would he lash out at those who disagree with him on such a personal level.  He wants everyone to like him. Who doesn’t want that?) What do Americans fear?  Losing their rights? The right to own a gun? The right to freedom of speech? The right to have more? When I hear the excuse “lessor of two evils” for why people voted for him, I feel angry. Would you want “Crooked Hillary” in the White House instead? No I would not, nor did I vote for her either. If every American who voted for Trump or Clinton that uttered the words “lessor of two evils” as the reason for their vote had instead voted for a third-party candidate maybe we would have someone in the White House my children could look up to. How did the DNC and RNC vet the candidates they put before us in primaries?

I remember sitting in history class growing up learning about American History. I learned about the lynchings of Black Americans in the 60’s, the Red Scare in the 50’s, the Japanese American internment camps during War World War II.  My professor talking about how people were afraid and it led to hysteria. I can vividly remember feeling ashamed I was an American and so grateful I was born during a time when that couldn’t happen again.  I mean we learned our lessons, right? Yet, as I read hateful diatribes between friends on “fake news” and “sore losers,” I find myself questioning whether or not history is yet again repeating itself. Trump has used fear to make Americans distrust their neighbor that doesn’t look like them or practice the same religion we do. We are afraid of terrorists? Of people stealing our jobs? Of not getting our fair share?  Yes, yes and yes. Me too. I get it.  But I don’t like it.

Trump uses fear to isolate our nation by building walls and shutting our borders. Why can’t our vetting process for letting refugees and people from countries not as great as ours into the U.S. be reviewed and improved without shutting our borders and instilling hate and fear. From the time, he announced the executive order until the courts finally allowed it, the new processes could have been completed. I worry one day my grandchildren will look at me after reading about this time period in history ask me how this could have happened. What will I say?  I’m sorry, people were afraid of not being first.

America is a mosaic. We need each other. Our differences are what makes us great.  People make us great. Not policies and politics and religion. We need to set aside our fears. I need to set aside my fear. Come on, we are the “Home of the Brave” aren’t we?

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Fear is…Frightening

a-to-z-letters-fFear is not my friend. Somewhere along the line that enemy of an emotion, I’m sure serves some purpose. But, I for one do not seek it out on purpose and I can’t understand why anyone would want to. I will be the last person you’ll find watching a scary movie. I’m the girl who thought Charley and the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz were scary. I can count on my hand the number of actual “scary” movies I’ve seen in my life – none by actual choice.

I saw  Halloween (you may have heard of it) in grade school at a girlfriend’s slumber party. I was afraid to be the only one that was too big of a “baby” not to watch. Unfortunately for me my vivid imagination replayed scenes from the movie preventing me from restful sleep for months (just ask my mother!) Poltergeist and Nightmare on Elm Street were two more peer-pressured movies I witnessed. Both led to more sleepless nights, where I humbly admit I pressured my younger sister into sleeping with me. What I thought she would do if we were actually attacked by Michael Myers or Freddie Krueger or that crazy clown under the bed, I don’t know. But I felt better having her there.

These days my fears are less about being stalked, haunted or murdered (although maybe they should be given the news on any given day), but more about the kind of fear that keeps me from being the best that I can be. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not being liked. The fear of conflict. The fear of not moving forward. The fear of hurting someone’s feelings. The fear of failing my children. The fear of my dreams never coming true and the fear that they might actually come true and then what?

I hate that stomach-churning, sweat-beading feeling I get when I face something I don’t want to do. When it comes to fight or flight, my brain tells me to run as fast as I can and not look back. Yet deep down I know there is a time to fight and push that fear way forever. I find that courage more and more as I gradually venture outside my comfort zone. To pursue my dreams and not be afraid to be the woman I’m meant to be. To open my eyes going down the biggest hill on the roller coaster and see the track before me. To eat in a hotel restaurant alone instead of ordering room service. That’s they only way I’m going to be able to look at the fear reflected in my daughters’ eyes when they can’t sleep at night or are fearful that something they touched might make them sick. I want to tell them everything is going to be OK, and mean it. I want them to know it’s OK to fail and it’s OK to be afraid, but its not OK to let either stop them from their dreams.

What are you afraid of? Would you go to a scary movie on purpose?