One or more of the Democratic candidates for president have to challenge the American people, and perhaps even chastise us, about our fear. We have allowed the George Bush Bandwagon to pound on our fears like punk rockers at a brass and percussion concert. Shame on us! The music is horrible, but still they are allowed to play on!
Dennis Kucinich said recently that “Fear is not a basis to run a government in a democracy.” Yes, indeed. And it’s also true that too much fear among the people will ruin the beats and rhythms of democracy.
Of course, fear is often rational and justified. But it can be irrational as well. It’s a large component of a child’s experience, and it lingers to various degrees in our psyche when we become adults. We project this unresolved fear into our surroundings and we believe that what we see in the world justifies it.
What could leading Democrats tell us about the politics of fear? It thwarts the growth of democracy. Democracy is not a static condition. It either grows or it falls back into more primitive forms of governance. For our democracy to grow, we have to rise to the required level of citizenship. We’ll probably have to take risks and move through our fears. If we cower in a corner looking to our military to feel safe, we’ll create a power vacuum at the heart of democracy. Malevolent individuals will rush in to fill positions of authority. The military is devouring our wealth and our emotional independence. The more we spend on the military, the more we rely on it. This dependence on it to solve our problems in the world only makes us more fearful.
“I’m not going to ask you to become fearless,” a Democratic leader might say. “After all, we do live in a nuclear age, an age of global warming, an age of terrorism and economic uncertainty. But I’m asking you to be as brave as you know how. That’s not asking too much. That’s what your country needs from you. That’s what you need from yourself. It’s simply unbecoming of us to be afraid of terrorists. We’re much better than that. Yes, we have to protect ourselves from them. We have to find them and destroy them. But we can’t afford to live in fear of them.”
What other points could Democratic leaders touch on? They could acknowledge that change does produce fear. It’s like moving across the country. You find a job in a different state, sell your home where you grew up, and move everything you own down the ribbon of highway. A new adventure like this can be exciting but also scary, and there are no guarantees of safety or security. Changing our country’s course is also a new adventure. We do it because we believe in ourselves. We believe in our destiny. We believe in America.
Tell us the truth. We need change. We need a leader who will make peace in the world, and we need leaders who will maintain it. Making war is easy and any fool can start one. Unnecessary war is a consequence of fearfulness and stupidity, while making peace requires humility and courage and brain-power. We have to talk to people who are our enemies or potential enemies. Let’s be willing to hear and consider how they see the world, how they view their neighbors, and how they regard us.
Diplomacy is the art of establishing trusting relationships. Aggressive personal diplomacy is very effective when practiced by honorable people. Here in our country, friends, family members, and married couples have to talk, negotiate, and hear each other out if they are going to grow into deeper affection, trust, and love. We don’t make friends in our communities by making threats to each other or delivering ultimatums. Nations have to negotiate, too. That’s how we will create peace. Otherwise, we won’t have the resources and the spirit to tackle the enormous environmental and economic problems we are facing.
There is nothing more important for us now than to reestablish the faith of the world in our excellence, our steadfastness, our good sense. We also have to reaffirm our own courage. The music mustn’t die. Let this be a time for our greatness to reach its crescendo.