Watching the electoral cycle this year is like watching an old movie from a warped film reel with the sound out of sync. The puppet figures of politicians go through the meaningless gestures. The familiar slogans and catch phrases groan from twisted mouths, distorted and odd. A maniacal fervor pulses in the expressions of the assembled.
Fear, not courage or vision, is the driving factor behind this year's electoral cycle. Be afraid, be very afraid,is the subtext of the speeches on both the left and right. The notions of safety and security pop up frequently. Our veterans and troops are invoked. The threat of the faceless, caricatured "enemy" lurks on the edges of the speeches. The need for a heavy militarization in all corners of the globe is never questioned, neither by the left nor by the right.
With our chests constricted with anxiety, hearts hammering with worry, minds clouded with fear of the other – Trump, Clinton, terrorists, racists, xenophobia, free markets, communists, police state, the climate crisis, economic collapse – the politicians have us in their hands. Our eyes narrow at each other. We build mental walls left and right. We head to the polls, determined to beat the enemy with our votes.
At the end of the day, we lose.
Every election cycle, the people lose. We lose our respect. We lose our dignity. We lose our civility toward one another. We lose our critical thinking skills. We lose our heads. We lose our hearts. We don’t win, we just lose.
President Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The rampant fear mongering of both parties, the media, the pundits, and the believing populace sows the seeds of hatred, acrimony, short-sightedness, bigotry, intolerance, violence, and conflict.
We have serious issues to deal with as Americans. On every level of our society, we face challenges that require the engagement of a mature, active, and committed citizenry. The shadow of nuclear war looms once again. The threat of climate catastrophe races toward us. Economic upheaval is on our doorstep. Violence is breaking out on our streets. No amount of scapegoating, finger pointing or blaming will help us resolve these issues. Divisions in viewpoints, knowledge, information sources and perspectives have created a deeply troubling state of disunion, one in which civic process, discourse, conflict resolution and problem-solving flounder.
Fear is a tactic used by the despotic or the power-lusting to manipulate and control us. It is the responsibility of all citizens, left and right, to challenge it vigorously. We must question those who tell us to fear. We must confront it within our own hearts. Otherwise, on Election Day, we will find that only our fears will win.