Fear and Insurrection
I am a little behind where I was hoping to be with this blog series, but this last week or two has been...intense. Additionally, the occurring events made me reconsider where I was going to go to next in this discussion. Reframing and changing tack on the fly is something we're all getting better at.
So that being said, it's an interesting time to be talking about fear. January 6, 2020 was a study in fear. Being powerless has an important relationship to fear, and fear has an important relationship to anger. This whole movement that has expressed itself in the insurrectionist movement is about power, anger, and fear.
Feeling powerless is something that causes people to be fearful, and being fearful causes people to feel powerless. A lack of personal agency, a feeling of hopelessness, a sense that you do not have, nor have hope of gaining, power over your life, is understandably terrifying. Feeling terrified makes you feel vulnerable and lacking control, which is scary, so we find a path out of fear.
The actions of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building were an expression of anger. Anger is a feeling that is so often is the result of fear, especially when that fear comes from a sense of being disempowered. Anger feels like a cushion against fear; it insulates us from feeling scared. Being frightened provokes something akin to fight or flight response, where our bodies produce chemicals that give us energy, change our heart rate, our respiration. We don't feel the need to eat, and our vision changes to literally narrow our viewpoint. We feel somewhat invincible.
The movement that led to to events of 1/6 certainly plays out as being anger-based, but it is really a fear-based one. The anger that fuels it grows from the root of fear. These people have been taught to fear. You create fear by taking away power - limiting access to education, resources, opportunity. Once you create that, you invent an enemy to blame and let the power of anger take over.
I hate the hate. I hate the racism, the homophobia, the anti-semitism. I hate the intolerance, the self-absorption and the selfishness, and I am appalled by those who have invested in it as a philosophy, but I am far more appalled by those who have stoked those ideas, made people helpless and then invented a way to blame it on The Other so as to distract from who it was that made them that way in the first place.
So when I see these people, I try to also see their fear, because it's important to see the place that is human in each of us. I definitely believe strongly that punishment should be meted out to those who break the law, threaten the well being of others, attempt to destroy our country. I want to see a lot of people in orange jumpsuits - some of whom stayed at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Let's remember, however, how someone - or several someones - has spent generations reaching deep into the most vulnerable parts of the psyche to trigger fear and use it for their own ends. Let us consider what we can do to cut this out at the root.