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Have Not A Spirit of Fear

I was sitting in the living room working on my laptop when Owen wandered in and laid his head on my lap. "Daddy, I keep having bad dreams and I can't go to sleep." I walked him back into his room, tucked him in and told him to look at his stuffed animals if he got scared again. After all, how can you feel scared when Piglet is grinning in your face? Owen agreed with that logic and soon fell asleep.

The whole incident brought to mind one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. I used to have a hard time falling asleep because I had an active imagination and I was extremely susceptible to imagery from TV. For instance, there was an episode of McGyver with a Sasquatch in it. Even though the Sasquatch turned out to be a bad guy dressed up, and even though he was eventually caught by the bemulletted hero, I still feared the 7-foot-tall monster would emerge from my closet the moment I closed my eyes.

To help me and my sisters with our bed-time fears, my father used to sing us a song based on a Bible verse: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind!" He'd get out his guitar and we'd sing this verse several times, reminding ourselves that we didn't have to be afraid. We'd remember what we were raised to be: loving, yet powerful people with sound minds.

So it all came together when Owen interrupted me, because I was reading an essay by Bruce Schneier (by way of Andrew Sullivan) about the current state of fear in which we in America now live. The tongue-in-cheek conclusion of his essay is that we should close the Washington Monument due to the complications involved in protecting it from terrorists. By doing so, we will finally erect a proper monument to our state of fear:
An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They're afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism -- or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they're afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they're right, but what has happened to leaders who aren't afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?
It's so true that it literally hurts me to read it. Somehow we have moved from being a country of sound-minded people to a collection of flinching, wincing individuals. This article dovetails with another essay I recently read by Patrick Smith (from Ask a Pilot), who reminds us that terrorism existed before 9/11, and somehow we, as a nation, didn't go scurrying and hiding. We didn't overreact and ban nail clippers and snow globes from carry-on luggage.

He describes a harrowing four-year time span between 1985 and 1989 during which there were eight major terrorist attacks on planes and airports.
In the 1980s we did not overreact. We did not stage ill-fated invasions of distant countries. People did not cease traveling and the airline industry did not fall into chaos. We were lazy in enacting better security, perhaps, but as a country our psychological reaction, much to our credit, was calm, measured and not yet self-defeating.
It's really too bad that we didn't react more calmly nine years ago, but
With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn't exist prior to that day, when really we've been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?
What our country has done, I would argue, is traded in a spirit of love and power for one of fear.
And what more could the terrorists have hoped for? Perhaps the cliche "the terrorists have won" is a cliche because it's so often true, given our reaction to it.

Well, I for one have made up my mind to not give into fearfulness. We get one chance at life on this planet, and I'm determined to enjoy it here while I can. And I want to teach that same attitude to my children so they can grow up with sound minds.


mama mia said…
So true, and a lovely remembrance, John...thanks for heart is warmed thinking about you and the boys...can't wait to see you all later this month!
Megan said…
Here here. :) Thanks for the nice post this morning! :)
blissful_e said…
I was thinking about this the other day, that often as a parent I say "don't worry," (such as, "don't worry, I'll get to you as soon as I've helped your brother" or "don't worry, the loud toilet won't hurt you") and Jesus said "do not be afraid" a lot to his disciples, too.

Reading the Bible, I believe that there are two spirits, the spirit of fear (and other destructive things), and the Holy Spirit, which is God's indwelling of Christ-followers, and is the spirit of love, power, and a sound mind.
kel said…
Nice, thank you for the reminder, John. I was scared of Michael Jackson & ET popping out of my closet as a kid! I can't wait to see you guys later this month as well!
JohnJohn said…
Kel: I'm not sure I'm yet over my fear of Michael Jackson coming out of my closet (shudders). See you and the rest of the fam at Xmas!

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