We claim to be the best. We brag about being a democracy and assert that we alone represent opportunity and equality. We proudly wave our flags and sing our anthem with the knowledge that we have the largest military in the world. We toot our horn about individuality and the ability to achieve anything if we just work hard enough.
All of this, and yet we are a most fearful people.
For example, there’s a growing backlash against the teaching of Islam in our public schools. The religion is taught in history classes alongside other religions and within its cultural, historical context. Let me be clear: in no way do I defend or condone the religion or any of the horrifying actions we’re witnessing in its name. I do know, however, that it’s impossible to teach history without also teaching the heavy handed influence that religion has had on its course. Is there any other way to explain the Crusades of cleansing the Moors without also explaining the path of Islam’s spread prior to the event? You’ll get no argument from me about the necessity to combat ISIL, but it is possible to study something without endorsing its behavior and horrifying acts. Indeed, it is a burden we must accept to understand the historical, cultural context of Islam in order to address the immediate crisis of the day. And in the end, one finds comprehension, and the ability to reason with confidence, not conversion to a set of beliefs.
The idea of socialism has been used to invoke great amounts of fear within our national discussions and for a somewhat fair reason: we’ve associated it with the failed communist regime of the USSR. However, while communist Russia was failing, the United States was actually at its most socialist with high tax rates and large social programs. The difference is an important one: government control of goods is one thing, government control of services is quite another and has a proven success rate. It is possible to separate the failed experiment of the Soviet Union from the absolute benefits of government provided social services. We need not fear socialism any longer.
Science creates a great deal of anxiety for many. So much so that a fair amount of opposition meets its findings and their application. Part of this is due to an adherence to an outdated book that’s been rewritten so many times that it can hardly be used for the basis of any reasonable, modern day decision making. Yet, science is the one place where we can all agree and speak the same language. In an era when the health of our planet is precarious, we must come to grips with science as a basis for overcoming potential disaster. Without understanding, fear grows exponentially, and we only end up stifling our progress.
We Americans own an unusual amount of fear for a nation whose origins were born from adversity and required bravery, intelligence, reason, and understanding for success. We exhibit a fair amount of insecurity for a nation who needn’t worry about resources. We demonstrate a great deal of immaturity when we refuse to consider new evidence and new perceptions in spite of their proven ability to benefit society.
It is perplexing to this citizen how a nation forged from determination, solid will, and reasonable foundations can succumb to fear without much thought. Here’s to conquering our fears, and the unprecedented progress that awaits us without them. #vote2016