Fear, Itself

It feels like there has been a death in the family.  Someone you care deeply for is gone.  The utter shock and blinding amazement coursed through my body the night of the election.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  After all the progress and strides toward equality and acceptance, I fell asleep election night filled with despair.

I hope I am not alone.  I know I am not alone.  Many of us feel alone.  I am angry to discover after the election, the Trevor Project suicide hotline was flooded with calls from LGBTQ youth; how are we safe?  How do we live in a world with a person like Donald Trump?  Like Mike Pence?  Their very presence normalizes hate, racism, and what now feels like a constant state of fear.

Artists have the unenviable task of creating what is felt; unenviable because often time what is felt is not what we want to experience.  Sometimes we must shed some light in an otherwise dark time.  Let’s bury our heads in the sand; Lord, let me take four-years worth of Xanax and red wine.  Lord, let this cup pass me by.

We could be silent and hope this all goes away.  About a quarter of the country voted for Trump, another quarter (and about million or so more, but who’s counting?) voted for Hillary.  half the country didn’t vote.  If this election taught us anything, it’s that we cannot simply hope for the best.  We cannot bury our heads in the sand and cry, fearing what might be outside ourselves.

Fear, itself is a very powerful thing.  It keeps us from getting out of bed.  It keeps us from writing, dancing, and putting the paint brush on the canvas.  It also motivates us to act in ways we wouldn’t otherwise act, turning our gaze inward.  It makes us paranoid and selfish.  Many people in this country are scared there is not enough; there are latinos for Trump, minorities for Trump.  There are second generation US citizens; their parents, immigrated here and voted for Trump.  They are the good immigrants; these new immigrants need to get out.  They’re different.  We fear what they might be.

Artists struggle with their own fears on a daily basis.  More people fear public speaking than death.  Try walking out on stage, and you will know true fear.  We have to overcome that fear every time we perform.  And now we must overcome the fear that has permeated our culture.

At times of utter despair, artists give hope.  We can tell the stories and perform the work that gives people solace.  We have to speak to the unspoken and give voice to those who feel mute.  It is in art that we can speak up and be a source of inspiration and change.  Art can make people feel things they wouldn’t otherwise feel; it can humanize the ‘other,’ taking away some of the fear of the unknown.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.” He went on to say it is “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed effort to convert retreat into advance.”  We are living in such a time of unreasonable, unjustified fear.

Now is the time to show compassion.  By our example we can show that we are not caricatures or stereotypes.  Not all Mexicans are rapists, not all homosexuals are filled with the devil, and not all women should be in the kitchen.  We can listen to each other and allow the emotions we feel to inform our work and our communion with our community.

Society doesn’t function without art.  You take away the art and you are left with a mob.  Let us not fall into a mob, but rather lift our society up; our society that so desperately needs to know we are not alone.