2020 The Year of Fear

2020 The Year of Fear
Edvard Munch, 1893 Der Schrei der Natur National Gallery, Oslo

2020 has been the Year of Fear but here at the end of it all, I am surprisingly not afraid. There have been moments in the past twelve months when Fear did get to me, but those were surprisingly fleeting. There have been plenty of reasons as 2020 was a complete personal dumpster fire on top of everything else going on in the world. So, how come I’m not afraid?

As usual, my perspective has been shaped by the Gold Star community that has been there for me through the last ten years. There have been many conversations aimed at trying to understand why so many of us just aren’t buying into the hysteria that has been our National discourse.

The tongue-in-cheek response is, since we’ve survived the worst thing a human being can, there really isn’t much left to fear. There is great truth in that flippant attitude, but not for the reason most assume. Yes, we have all buried a child, but that is not the worst thing. The worst thing is living every day since.

Recognizing the soul-shattering truth contained in those words has put everything into perspective. It explains why so many of us simply don’t react to the fearmongering or virtue signaling others are succumbing to daily. Every headline, every news story, everything around us is aimed at instilling Fear. That in itself is scary, but it is not the most frightening part. What has kept me up at night is the idea being shoved down our collective throats that if you’re not afraid of whatever is being screamed at us you are either willfully uneducated or a bad person. Being afraid has somehow become virtuous.

You’re not afraid of this virus? Then you don’t care about people dying.

You’re not afraid of [insert your choice] becoming President? Then you don’t care what that will mean for [insert your choice] people.

You’re not afraid of literally any- and every- thing? Then you are just a selfish, terrible person. Because if you were a good person you would be afraid. The like me or too is always implied but rarely stated.

This is the Virtue of Fear.

Fear is not a virtue. The proof is those who use Fear as a weapon to manipulate others know there is nothing virtuous in their actions. If you ever find yourself feeling virtuous because you Fear something others don’t, understand that is the most insidious lie of Fear…the masquerading of Cowardice as Fear in the name of Safety.

Safety is the illusion Fear drives us to construct. The Virtue of Fear says if you are not expending your energy constructing Safety but are blithely going along with your life, then one of us is wrong. There are deep, evolutionarily valid reasons humans are averse to being wrong, but those primal motives have less opportunity to be expressed in our soft, evolved lives. We no longer live as if picking the wrong berry will poison or kill our entire community of hunter-gatherers, but we still react if our intellectual, spiritual or personal life choices carry the same life-or-death consequences. Too many of us have not evolved to discern that distinction. One of the ways this shows is thinking, believing and acting as if Fear were a Virtue.

Politicians, snake-oil salesmen, and the media know this fact all too well. It is why candidates always contrast their ideas and agenda with the Fear of what will happen if they don’t win, if the other side gets their way. And too many of us respond like the hunter-gatherers from which we are ostensibly evolved.

There is another evolutionarily requisite human trait. It is the antidote to Fear, an actual Virtue and one which we all possess but too often fail to recognize. It is the opposite of Fear, but it is not Courage.

It is Resilience.

Courage is what is necessary to face Fear. Courage requires a momentary exertion of effort, an expenditure of energy which sometimes is extreme. Resilience does not require effort, does not expend energy. Resilience is energy in and of itself. Resilience is what fuels Courage to face Fear. Resilience is the knowledge there is something beyond Fear. When Resilience is recognized, it becomes an available response other than Fear. Resilience is what happens both before Courage and after Fear.

Resilience is not acceptance. It is not fatalistic nihilism or a defeatist attitude of powerlessness. Resilience is both the act of and the power to get up and go on, in whatever way is possible or available. The ever-present supply of Resilience can be cultivated and shared, and it must be to defeat the Fear that is an ever-present facet of life.

Resilience is a constant and even more indicative of being human as it comes from the evolved, rational part of the human brain. Afterall, despite the Fears we have faced individually, as a society and as a species, we are still here. That is Resilience. And that is how we who have and continue to survive the worst thing, can.

2020 was the Year of Fear. Let 2021 be the Year of Resilience.

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    Denise Williams

    Views and opinions from the Gold Star, Military and Veteran perspective are generally different from those of the civilian world. Much of what I write is "their" stories, as told to me as the Gold Star Mother of PFC Andrew Meari, KIA 11/1/10 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This is how I continue to honor the Oath my son took. I don't like labels or boxes as the former is insufficient to describe a person and the latter limits a person but if you insist, call me a Progressive Republican. I believe in this country, our Constitution and above all, in the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe our government is supposed to serve the people, not tell them how to live. To me, this is just common sense but since it seems to be a minority opinion, it has become "Uncommon Sense".

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