Thursday, May 17, 2007

Motivated by Fear

I've been thinking about fear as a motivational factor in the lives of people. I know I was motivated by lots of fear, starting in early childhood.

But it would be foolish of me to think that I'm the ONLY person on earth who has acted out of fear for most of his (or her) life.

I read a little bit of Jerry Falwell's bio and realized that he was probably motivated by a lot of fear. He grew up with a lot of alcoholic chaos around him. I'll bet he was desperately seeking a way to impose "order" on the chaos of life by subscribing to the strict beliefs of a born-again, Southern Baptist. There's comfort to be found in self-imposed strict limits... especially when you've lived fearfully in a veritable jungle as a child.

Fred Phelps probably acts out of a lot of fear, too. Probably fear of those dreadful thoughts that never seem to leave his head of the unspeakable, horrible, fascinating, hot, things that men can do to each other left to their own devices. I mean, it must drive him absolutely crazy with fear, as he spends hour after hour, day after day, thinking about things like that.

I used to act out of fear by mostly just getting drunk.

Then, of course, there's the politics of fear. Fear has always been a popular political tool. And not just by the Republicans, either. Democrats, too, have resorted to fear to stir up their base.

The right targets small-town American fears. Fear of big cities. Fear of outsiders. Fear of people of different colors and cultures. Fear of having one's sons and daughters "corrupted" by "evil influences" (abortion, homosexuality, you name it). Fear of "different." Fear of liberalism.

The left targets big-city fears. Fear of small-towns. Fear of shrinking protections. Fear of being left behind. Fear of conformity and lack of intellectual freedom. Fear of being straitjacketed to death by Christian Fundamentalism. Fear of "sameness." Fear of conservatism.

And when they tire of politically beating the crap out of each other, there's always the Middle East (pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian... or vice-versa... and at the end of the day, who cares? Cousins always fight). Or the porous southern border. Or the "war on drugs" (What war? We lost.) Or... something.

There's always something worth fearing. And you can count on our political parties to try to make some electable hay out of it.

Fear. The Great Salesman.

Anyway, all my unfounded fears took me to the depths of drunkeness and to death's door. Fear delivered Rev. Falwell to ultra-orthodox, inflexible, judgmentalism.

Fear does funny things to people. But mostly it just hurts them.

I don't live in fear so much anymore. It turns out that by choosing to live in love instead, fear sort of disappears.

I'm sorry that Reverend Falwell never chose to live in love. At least not publicly.

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