Fear could lead us to make changes

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:40 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weather has been a major newsmaker for the past several months. Tsunamis, mudslides and snowstorms have made the headlines. People-against-nature stories abound.

People are amazed that others continue to choose to live in places where natural disasters occur almost every year. As one who has lived in an area struck by two major tornadoes, I know that everyone has his or her own reason for choosing to rebuild and hope for the best. Since the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, there’s been more focus on the desire to “live safe.” Some people actually live in constant fear of being the victim of a terrorist plot. Sadly enough, I know some folks who have given into their fears, thinking that everyday life constitutes a virtual landmine of dangers.

The daily television news doesn’t help matters. Friends and acquaintances who live alone and spend most of their time in front of the television set tend to be at the greatest risk for irrational fears. Every act of violence they hear about they are apt to internalize. It takes nearly every ounce of courage they can muster to leave home, ride in an automobile or take an airplane flight. If you listen carefully, you might be surprised at the amount of conversation devoted almost exclusively these days to fear mongering.

This is just one of the ways that our lives have changed since the terrorist attack. I’ve noticed, too, that a lot more individuals measure their friends by their awareness of world events. Foreign countries that a few years ago were places most people had only heard about in geography class have become recognizable pieces of real estate. Not being on top of every late-breaking news story from every part of the globe in some social circles is seen as a major failing.

Have you observed that there are fewer fence-sitters around than there used to be? Everybody nowadays seems to have a definite opinion on every issue. Almost any bold statement uttered in a crowd of strangers is almost certain to be met with immediate disagreement or overwhelming support.

Probably, the most dangerous change, in my opinion, is the calm acceptance by the masses of governmental decisions without appropriate discussion. There have always been many sides to all issues. Not bringing them out in public debate and making decisions arbitrarily invites disaster. No individual is always right, and no government leader should be beyond questioning.

We are in the most critical period in our nation’s history. I think that the actions we have taken in the past four years will determine the future course of our history. There have probably always been those within our population who believe this country is invincible and that it can overcome every obstacle, including insurmountable natural disaster and catastrophic epidemic. It is a state of mind that has always been encouraged by whatever powers that be. While we certainly enjoy a certain uniqueness among nations, we are a finite entity, not an infinite one. We need to begin to assess our advantages and disadvantages in a more realistic manner.

There are many people who truly believe that God favors America over all other countries. There are others who believe that God is not interested in nationalities. Obviously these diverse beliefs will make it difficult for us to ever unify. As a nation of separate believers, we have to form alliances with others based on our credibility. I would imagine that most of the world’s religious people would have a difficult time accepting this country as their superior. This may, in fact, be one of our biggest handicaps in our efforts to democratize the world. Some people would have a difficult time recognizing a democracy of superior and inferior allies.

We have come through a tragic time with many losses. I am sure the optimists among us will find gains to count. Frankly, I believe our lack of unity will prevent us from achieving any kind of lasting peace between our shores. We are a people from whom apologies rarely come easily or at all. We go loping on through life pretending that a Band-Aid will successfully stop a hemorrhage and no further attention will be necessary. So, the bleeding goes unabated.

I hope our fears will give way to recognition of our shortcomings and a willingness to forgive those we disagree with. Perhaps the healing powers of time will ultimately help us overcome our current dilemma.

We have the advantage of being a relatively young nation. Maybe we will have the opportunity to profit from our growing pains. Should wisdom come knocking, one can only pray that we will throw open the door and let common sense pour in.

You can join the conversation with Rose Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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