Crippling Emotion: The Detrimental Pull of Fear

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END OF the world threats did not end with our safe passage from 2012. According to some, if Donald Trump is fully elected as President the world will indeed end, for our Constitutional foundation will be crushed with a demagogue in legal power and a firebrand will have control over the strongest military in the world.  According to others, if we continue to abuse our planet unashamedly, bathing our lives in an oil-slick film drawn from the ground that sustains us, our greed-driven minds will not be able to maintain the precarious bubble of peaceful existence we so desire. Still, others rage that writers like me, tainted with “liberal bias,” distort public opinion by advocating for policies that are borderline communist.

Such radical threats of the destruction of our government, quality of life, and means of procuring information are thrown at us on a daily basis. This daily onslaught might turn us all into burden-weary individuals, stooped with the mistakes and wrongs of the past, hesitant to peer into the future. Yet, to embrace that worldview would be to deny what fundamentally makes us human—the innate ability to rebel, innovate, and live.

Why do politicians do it? Why do they take an issue, blow it even slightly out of proportion, and advocate for a solution fiercely on or beyond the campaign trail? Among students, the issue might be alterations of the finals week schedule, needed changes to classroom atmospheres, or access to services that not all have, like one-on-one tutoring. On a wider scale, the fear of an “end of the world” outcome draws attention to an issue and brings it to national consideration. A grassroots movement could come of it, or even public policy change. So what makes fear-mongering even remotely detrimental? If we do not lack the ability to act, even in the face of unneeded consequences, how could emotion cripple us?

When we are exposed to a particular issue, especially from a person who stands to gain support by swaying public perception of policy to align with his, we are jaded to leap to the ‘correct’ conclusion. The actions that we then undertake do not stem from rational, calm evaluations of circumstance, but rather from a perceived threat to our personal security. Self-interest is an understandable facet of human nature, and it is often twisted against us to ascertain that we will be malleable to change. Who that change actually benefits is debateable, but it is never debated, for we dislike being thought of as pawns in a greater political game. It could be argued that all interactions are inevitably affected by the desire to persuade and influence, but in politics this exchange of ideas is one-sided—a deafening yet softly engaging call to the viewer.

The most idealistic among us wish to believe that our collective opinions matter and they might. But from the start, our opinions are slanted to a decided issue and we use our right to vote as a reflection of who we perceive to be the best protector of our personal interests. Fear-mongering is the shouting that minimizes the true volume of a matter to our country, and those who come to the polls may vote based on the amplified sounds they’ve heard.