Imagine a group of young adults holed up in a cabin surrounded by acres of dark and entangled trees where unknown horrors seem to lurk. Out of fear, the inhabitants of the tiny cabin turn on the lights sending yellow streams across a dreary field of grass that are eventually silenced at the edge of an ominous forest.
Naturally, everyone knits themselves close together, wide awake and intent on keeping eyes peeled out into the distance. Soon minds begin to wander, creeping down dirt paths into the forest and the longer the people stare, the more barbaric and vivid their imaginations become. Rational thinking is swallowed by uneasy creaks and groans caused by slight movements and logic is startled at the faint outlines of small animals scampering past windows.
They ponder the possibilities, it could be a ghost roaming the land, a ravenous werewolf foaming at the mouth or a crazed killer on the loose, but none of these options are comforting to disquieted heads.
Although fear and anxiety are natural human responses to facing the unknown, they block a person’s ability to think clearly and reason.
Yet, these same organic instincts are being used as a potent form of fuel on the 2016 presidential election trail. Campaigns such as those run by a bombastic showman and a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist" -- which according to the source is less scary than the tried and antiquated “socialism” that collapsed in the Soviet Union -- run on this particular kind of fuel while gaining the support voters by the thousands.
After all, those who are frightened will run towards any sign of shelter regardless of what unpleasant dwellers may reside there and that $19 trillion debt (and growing) is a monster to be faced another day, quietly stirring beneath the floorboards of our “oh-so-secure” safe spaces.
Political pundits, talking heads and partisan radio hosts alike have dubbed it “the year of the outsider,” as they try, many times falling short, to predict outcomes and calculate which demographics and states will vote this way and that.
The establishment was predictable, like puppets hanging from the strings of the highest donor-bidders. On the other hand, insurgents were less foreseeable, like the widely loathed Texas Senator, Ted Cruz, whose brand of conservatism was too potent a pill for even Republicans in Congress to swallow. And then there is the real estate mogul, Donald Trump, whose appearance in the race has changed the political game like no other.
A year ago Trump was a silly sideshow, a not-to-be-taken-seriously dinner table joke served with the leftovers, ironically now the main course at any media outlet which slices and dices up his actions and words like the brilliant chefs they believe they are.
These bite-sized media bits that are easily consumed by those with short attention spans and not much time to spare have proliferated across all corners of the Internet and, not so surprisingly, pandered to people’s fears.
After all, an egotistical dictator, a heartless fire-breathing dragon that sits protectively on her pile of gold and a naive, but seemingly honest man who wants to open the doors of government like a candy store and allow people to take what they want, wouldn’t be top on almost anyone’s list for people to move into the White House.
At the end of the day, the anger stemming from people’s worst nightmares is palpable and can be seen as the disaffected right clash with the dissatisfied left as they did last Friday at a college campus in Chicago, where small skirmishes broke out at a planned Trump rally between anti-Trump protesters and his supporters.
For the people watching TV news from the safety of their living rooms, blue light washing over their forlorn faces as the press honed in on combatant altercations, people tearing up campaign signs and jumping the stage while vehemently chanting slogans “Make Donald Drumpf Again” and “F___ Trump,” it may have felt as though the country were imploding.
It's not, the media just knows where to train its spotlight.
We should all keep in mind that the screaming and shouting coming from both sides of the aisle will only worsen already steep political divides and strengthen the wild fantasies many constituents in this race have already conjured up. The loose analogies comparing candidates to evil authoritarian dictators like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, while some may think are clever, simply add to the mounting hysteria.
When faced with a seemingly threatening ideology, it is always best to remain calm and intelligently address those who see things differently. You may find that the monsters you thought you saw in the woods were merely some tangled branches and not so scary after all.
Not all Trump supporters are the same just as not all Sanders supporters are created equal, no pun intended.
Everyone has different reasons for supporting whichever candidate they have chosen to stand behind, and it is important that we examine those reasons carefully because therein lies the existing anger that needs to be addressed, rather than yelled at and dismissed.
The unknown is like smoke up in the air, cloudy and uncertain, and all shouting in the world won't bring it under control.
Remember how as children we would scream at the monsters in the closet to try and make them go away, hands pressed tightly to our ears as we struggled to remain calm? All that franticness only made the evils we saw become more evocative as red eyes narrowed and claws sharpened.
We can't allow our fears to dictate how we behave and react to others. Try to keep that in mind.
And as for our poor friends in the cabin in the woods, there was really nothing lurking in the shadows. It was just the mind playing tricks, as it tends to do.