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Using Fear As a Vehicle for Dialogue

Image by SplitShire via Pixabay. Image by SplitShire via Pixabay.

Fear has always been a tactic of the enemy. Its was wielded by the Vikings and recapitulated by the most intimidating athletes of our time. Evoke terror and self-consciousness in your opponent, and you increase your likelihood of winning the fight. Fear arms the immaterial battle, entrenching what the enemy’s physical approach cannot, penetrating into the emotions, into the very spirit. It transforms the inner-self. The fearful defeat themselves, in a way.

One of my mentors recently described the world as a place “full of terror,” commenting on the emotional and psychological maladies pervading and, in some cases, eroding society. Fear unravels hope.

Many conservatives I meet seem nearly hopeless. They relentlessly point out the errors of the ominous “Left,” its failures in logic, its injustices against personal rights and religious beliefs. They speak of international policy in terms of the American politicians whose diplomacy appears foolish. On and on they go. When I hear their lamentations (which are justified), I hear bellicosity and despair. And underneath all their hostility and cynicism is fear.

Of course we're afraid. Our country’s greatest enemies are called “terrorists,” and they live up to their name. Fear has undoubtedly plagued humanity ever since the gates of Eden closed behind a flaming sword.
I think, however, that we are defeating ourselves by succumbing to such fear. It puts us in a position of defensiveness and victimization. We draw back from engaging with others. Our anger makes political discourse and constructive dialectic, and even agreement, impossible. And this division within our own country feeds into our sense of global threat.

There's a strange paradox to fear. Sometimes it has the power to unite. Both liberals and conservatives are concerned about our relations abroad, about violence in the world, misdeeds against humanity, and poverty. If we allow it to, our fear might scatter Americans into our separate ideological spheres. But we might ask ourselves: What we are afraid of losing? Clarifying fundamental beliefs and principles might allow for conversation between the Left and the Right. Why are Russia, China, and Iran so intimidating to us? What do we want to save?

I write this as a guide for conservatives, to present a different origin for discussion with those who dismiss notions of tradition and truth. If you feel yourself growing angry or bitter, ask yourself where the source of your frustration lies. Seek out conversation with those of different viewpoints and ask them questions (without hostility). Rather than continually pointing out apogees of contention, look for little bridges of communion and bring them to the light in your thoughts and discussions. All people believe in some sort of truth, whether they acknowledge it or not. We believe in something indescribable that binds humanity. Why else could we call some events “atrocities” and others “miracles?”

By entering into this sort of dialectic, by using the tactic of the enemy as a vehicle for unity, you might find yourself encouraged. You might find yourself enlivened by something rather freeing and beautiful: by a bit of hope.


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