Every generation experiences shifts in attitudes and “sea” changes, the results of which seem, at the time, more than our human spirits can possibly bear. When I was little more than a child, I sat and watched events taking place in Dallas, Texas in 1963 as they unfolded in black and white on television—after having been sent home from my little three-room country school because of the crisis. Yes, here in Southern Ontario, Canada, kids were sent home when President Kennedy was shot.
I can still recall Miss Ritchie, who’d been my teacher from first to fourth grades, in tears, announcing the tragedy. And even though I was only 9, I’d already lost my father just months before, so the death of a man about the same age my dad had been affected me profoundly. I couldn’t at the time articulate it, but I wondered: was this the end of the world?
Just a few years later, two more assassinations rocked my 14-year-old existence. I remember thinking, as I watched the news after Bobby Kennedy was shot, that I would never get married or have kids. What would be the point? The world was too unstable, too fractured, and going to hell in a handbasket (whatever that was). Surely, this was the end of the world.
There’ve been other moments just as traumatic, just as mind boggling, and just as frightening to many of us. The war in Vietnam; Kent State; The Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics; and of course, more recently, 9/11. All of these events left some of us feeling as if the world was changing, hurtling toward something even more horrible, and more damning than humanity had ever known. They left us wondering if it was truly the beginning of the end.
My point is, and to put it in the basest of terms: crap keeps happening, and yet humanity is still here.
I know of a lot of people who no longer watch network news. They find it too depressing, too scary or flat out, too disgusting. They figure if it gets bad enough out there, someone will call them and let them know. We do watch some network news, my beloved and I, because we like to be informed. It’s also a good outlet, to be able to shout invectives at the TV. Reduces the stress levels if you don’t carry it too far.
It’s very easy in today’s society to feel hopeless, and fearful. It’s easy to despair that things are never going to be “normal” again. I get that, and the fact that some people do feel that way breaks my heart. Have you noticed that there’s so much anger in the world today? That anger really does seem to be world-wide. I’ve seen it on the nightly news during the primary season in the US, when on-air reporters would talk to “the person on the street”; and I saw that same thing again very recently, during the same type of coverage of the historic vote in Great Britain.
The following is strictly my opinion, for you to take or leave as you will. Here’s the thing: people are good and caring, but they can also be very self-serving. And in any given situation, those who are self-serving will find a way to profit when others are in pain, or in suffering, or are in grief. They will, without hesitation or remorse, exploit the emotions of the people they want to influence. And lately, their tool of choice has been to feed the fear we all experience when our world is in turmoil. Yes, fear is the greatest, and I believe only, real weapon in their arsenal.
I’ve said it before in my column, and I’ll say it again now: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is famously quoted as having said “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Those were wise words, prophetic words, that speak to us here, more than 80 years later as truly as they spoke to that generation wondering if their world was coming to an end.
There is, in my mind, and in my heart, only one way to combat fear, and that is with another “f” word—faith.
We must believe in the basic desire of most people to strive for excellence, to do that which lifts up, rather than tears down. We must believe in the basic desire for most people to live good, positive lives, in their desire to raise their children and reap the benefits that can be theirs through hard work, and the peaceful yet principled pursuit of the common good. We must not only believe in these things, we must behave as if this was a spiritual law written in stone. We must do good and uplift others and deny the fear mongers our time, and hence their reward.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, there really are more good, decent people in the world than there are rabble-rousing self-serving ones. One person’s efforts to give increase matter.
We just really, really, have to have faith, and then we must act on that faith.