Fear or love - what's it going to be?

We live in strange times; but we've lived in strange times before. Human behavior has been driven by either fear or love forever. Of those two emotions fear is the one that wins out more often than not.

Fear allows those who thirst for power to hold sway over large groups of humans. The Inquisitions, promoted by the Catholic Church as way to secure and expand power used fear to cement control over humans for 356 years. It was fear that helped Adolf Hitler rise to power. Hitler was a master at using fear as a weapon and convincing many people that they should be very afraid of an entire religion.

Doomed to repeat history

They say that those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it. One might conclude that we've not only failed to understand history, but that we've destroyed all evidence that history ever existed. We've morphed from Hitler's disdain of the Jews two generations ago to electing a president who wants us to fear, and by extension hate, Muslims. Whether or not Hitler really hated Jews or Donald Trump really hates Muslims is incidental. Insecure leaders, elected or religious, need a scapegoat to make them look and feel more powerful than they are. It sounds silly but it works; oh, does it work.

Just last night our authoritarian president, out of fear, skipped the Annual Correspondents Dinner. His thin skin won't allow him to be roasted. Like other insecure dictators he lacks the ability to be self-effacing and a sense of humor. In lieu of demonstrating courage he opted to host yet another ego-boosting rally where he told his fawning audience more lies that they eagerly absorbed. He said that he'll shut down the government in September if he doesn't get funding for his unwanted wall. You may recall that he had the chance to do just that, yet when confronted with reality, like most bullies, he caved.

Consider love

Perhaps instead of allowing fear to rule the day we might consider letting love take over. Sure it's not as successful at manipulating people as fear, but the end results are way better. The results of love (and respect) are usually peace. Peace is a tough sell when you live in a country where the military complex has its talons sunk deep into every one of our elected officials. Peace saves us money. War costs us money. Which one do you think our military would prefer?

Love would have us welcome people whose lives are in danger so that they may have a better life and make our country stronger. Fear would have us turn our backs on those in need and thus make us weaker as a nation.

I had the occasion to attend a meeting at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury recently. We saw a film about refugees who came here to escape the horror of their homeland. We saw Burmese women teaching others the ancient art of weaving the finest material you'll ever see. We saw young children practicing the lost art of traditional dancing so as not to forget their culture that they had to leave behind.

Joy and sadness

It was hard to watch this film without feeling great joy and sadness simultaneously. I felt fortunate to live in a state where refugees are welcome (sort of) and sadness that they were forced to leave their country — and in many cases their friends and family — because of fear of death and danger. They fear being murdered by dictators working overtime to divide people. A divided people are much easier to control.

America, once the "Beacon on the Hill," is quickly becoming just another hateful, fascist country. We're allowing fear to take the lead. Love seems to have left us right around the time the Beatles broke up. It can turn around, though. All you have to do is stop fearing others. That's a good place to start.

Bob Stannard is a writer. He has written two Vermont humor books and worked with Bobby Zappa on his memoirs, "Frankie & Bobby — Growing up Zappa."


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