I was putting the girls down for a nap yesterday afternoon, when Sadia's routine was broken up by a visit from a June-bug hovering just outside the window beside her bed. It scared the bejesus out of her, to the extent that she refused to get into bed.
"AAAAAH! MOOOOOOM, ITS GOING TO EAT ME! DON'T LET HIM GET ME!"
She flipped. The thought of that huge bug remotely near her was paralyzing. The beastly sound of its wings flapping feverishly in the air gave her the willies. She's not used to an insect producing such a hideous racket.
I often wonder why people get so frightened by these beetles. Perhaps their characteristically clumsy flying makes them appear aggressive, but they're actually very gentle creatures. Still people often react disproportionately to the beetle's presence.
Sure, beetles are ugly and scary looking, but the bottom line is they are completely harmless. Sadia's reaction seemed erratic. She jumped, she screamed, she flailed her arms in hysteria. She went berserk.., over a bug.., on the outside of the window. Her reaction was excessive, but I hesitate to become too critical. Her experience awaken my own traumatizing childhood encounter with an insect.
I was thirteen or fourteen-years old. One night while bathing, I got an unexpected visit from a spider. I was completely caught off guard after I looked up to find the pest dangling from the ceiling just above my head. The thing looked hideous and I was afraid of it. To this day, I still get a good start when I see the hairy creatures. (If you need additional proof, just check out my reaction to this guy.)
My imagination got the best of me. I entertained notions that the small spider would jump at me and attack me. Steven Spielberg's 1990's horror movie, "Arachnophobia" contributed to my irrational fear, and as a result seeing this hairy menace gave me visions of spiders overtaking the neighborhood. Without a second thought, I yelled at the top of my lungs:
"AAAAAHHHH! HE'S GOING TO GET ME! DAD, HELP! HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME! I bellowed while fighting back a fit of hyperventilation.
It wasn't long afterwards that my father arrived beating on the door, struck by fear that my life was in mortal danger. And who would blame him; fear only produces more fear. He turned the door knob eratically. I locked it earlier to ward off my pesky little sister, who was at that awkward invasion of privacy stage of adolescence.
"Unlock the door!" came his troubled voice as he frantically pulled on the knob.
"I CAN'T OPEN IT!" I freaked. I was so frozen with anxiety that I couldn't move a muscle.
My father stood on the other side of the door faced with a worst case scenario. His daughter was trapped in a locked room screaming bloody murder, and he was gripped with terror of the unknown. A visceral reaction to the madness incited my dad to bust the door off its hinges, knocking it completely off the wall and onto the bathroom floor. And in his mind at that moment, the ends justified the means.
As the dust and the crackling and snapping of the door's exposed interior settled, two things had occurred to me: 1) Perhaps I should have specified that the spider was the object of my fear; 2) I had no idea that my reckless actions could lead to such brute force.
Sadia's knee-jerk reaction to the June-bug this afternoon was immobilizing. My overdramatic response to the spider over twenty years ago was at best excesive, and dangerous at worst. We behaved in a way that most people would expect of fool-hearty youth.
In hindsight, our overblown reactions to the bugs, were probably fueled by the illusion of danger rather than the insects themselves. We had been sucked into the drama of it all. My fear was elevated thanks to the magic of Hollywood, and Sadia's fear had been intensified by fantasy born out of youthful imagination. But whether the threat that both Sadia and I faced was real or imagined, our reactions aren't unique.
Have you ever been afraid of something that you didn't fully understand? What fueled that fear? Lately, our country has been tinged with anxiety surrounding the health care debate. Fear has reared its ugly head and people have gotten unglued.
I'll use the case of William Kostric as an example. He brought a loaded handgun to protest a town hall meeting on health care reform. A bit extravagant, no? Not convinced, huh? Well, the gun touting protestor also showed off a sign that read, "It is time to water the tree of liberty," which is actually a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote that reads in full: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots."
Loaded guns and handmade signs alluding to violent rebellion is over-the-top and reckless. Suppose someone else who opposed his views had shown up with a loaded gun as well? It's not completely implausible, after all carrying a holstered loaded weapon is legal in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Suppose all of the protestors had arrived bearing arms to demonstrate their disapproval. Since guns are used primarily to kill, it is safe to assume that the result would have been violent. Or perhaps that was the intent. You can read more about his story here.
While others may seem less demonstrative, their words are no less reckless. With accusations like murderer flying around, there's no wonder people are responding with paranoia. You don't yell "FIRE" in a crowded theatre, because fear motivates people to freak out. The hysteria results in panic, and panic can be dangerous.
Some have even gone so far as to compare the health insurance reform bill the Hitler's health care plan of the 1930s. I guess anyone with a Crayola marker and the ability to scribble a Hitler mustache can make this divisive statement. What is supposed to be a strategy meant to show strong conviction, really boils down to just an immature attempt at getting an emotional response. Lessons learned from genocide should be held in high regard and not trivialized when adapted to health care reform by indiscriminate protestors.
It just doesn't seem like all people are doing is protesting the bill. There isn't that civil exchange of ideas that America and its citizens are always flaunting in front of the world. Agitators have blown this issue way out of proportion, and in so doing have lost credibility. People are shouting, "HE WANTS TO KILL ME! OBAMA WANTS TO KILL ME!" and seemingly without regard for the resulting collateral damage.
For the most part, some fear is healthy. It is our most instinctive and primal aversion to things that are new, things that are ugly, and things that are scary. To ideas. But it sometimes gets an unnatural hold on us, darkening and narrowing our perspective.
In Sadia's case, the June-bug was not the enemy. In my case, the spider wasn't the obstacle. In the case of Mr. Kostric, the threat of change was palpable. Fear is the real monster and the path to overcoming fear is sober thinking and understanding.
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