(HOST) While some are predicting gloomy prospects for 2009, commentator Mike Martin has been thinking about all we’ve made it through in recent years, and why being afraid is probably not the best way to start the New Year.
(MARTIN) "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Or at least that’s what my children like to tell me in a scratchy voice, imitating Yoda, the George Lucas character who’s always warning against the dangers of the Dark Side. And the little green guru from Star Wars might have a point. When you think about it, it’s easy to see how fear has affected us in the last few years and even shaped world events.
This year, there was mild hysteria in the blogosphere when some speculated that the giant particle accelerator in Europe called The Large Hadron Collider might create black holes which would devour the Earth and, well, eventually the whole universe, too. Now that seems laughable. And it’s safe to laugh at the Y2K panic now too; that was when the Millennium Bug was going to create a chain reaction of crashing computers that would, you guessed it, bring on the End of the World.
Obviously, there was a lot of fear right after 9/11, and mostly for good reason. It was fear of weapons of mass destruction that precipitated the War in Iraq, and just thinking about the Anthrax Scare that almost killed Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy brings you back to how weird things felt back then. There were jokes about the people who were actually duct-taping their windows in case of a chemical attack; but, just like the shoe bomb jokes, they didn’t really make you feel like laughing.
Of course, the whole point of terrorism is to inspire so much fear that your enemy acts erratically in response to it. For example, despite the on-going threat terrorism poses for the U.S., it really felt strange when some people suggested during the recent Presidential campaign that Barack Obama palled around with terrorists. Of course, the accusation didn’t make much sense; but in an environment of fear and uncertainty even the wildest claims can seem possible.
But Americans today probably aren’t any more susceptible to panic than previous generations – think of McCarthyism, or of Japanese-American Internment Camps during World War II, or of the irrational fear caused by Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, or of Salem, Massachussetts circa 1692.
Unfortunately, some of the problems facing us in 2009 are even scarier than witches and Martians, and no amount of New Year’s resolutions will make them go away soon. But after I’ve promised once again to lose weight, pay off credit cards, and work less on weekends, I’ll make sure to save one big resolution for 2009. I’m going to try to follow FDR’s famous advice and only fear fear itself. With all of the troubles in the world and tough times at home, it won’t be easy; but look at everything we’ve already made it through.
Because I think my kids and the little green Star Wars guy have it right: fear does lead to anger. And there’s another thing about fear – it is the opposite of hope.