One of the things I have always struggled to understand is this grip of fear that paralyses people. Racism is blamed on fear. Religious bigotry is blamed on fear. Police brutality is blamed on fear. The inability to listen to another perspective on life is blamed on fear. It’s all different kinds and degrees of fear, however still equally and potentially dangerous.
Cognitive Dissonance (this is a term I’ve heard several times over the years, not the least of which is during my recent Bachelor’s program) creates a kind of fear. I remember the fear of realising I no longer believed in the God of my parents. I was so scared that I wouldn’t find another god or gods to replace him with. I searched incessantly for a belief system that “fit” because I needed one— we all need a belief system, right? And if we don’t have one, we’re lost — right? Yes, I remember that fear well. At the time, I didn’t identify it as fear; I told people I was “searching”. Every so often I head off on another search for something to believe in and each time I do that, I end up in the same place: realising that the time I took to search I could have been doing something far more sustainable. (Like learning to make candles, for example.)
Just the other day, I read with interest and growing horror the statements of “that Duck Dynasty dude” (I think my mind is deliberately making me forget their names because … ugh!). My thought was that in all my godlessness, I have never dreamed up that kind of horrific scenario for anyone. And with all the ills I have lived through, I would wish that on no one. Of course, it could be argued that I haven’t lived through any ills. Nothing that would make me really want to hurt anyone. No one has murdered anyone close to me (that’s a lie; I wish him no harm though), no one has deliberately discriminated against me or mine (that I know of — they may have but it wasn’t overt), I’ve never been raped (also a lie), and so on and so forth.
But here’s the thing: I fancy myself a writer and I have some of the most horrific of fictional scenes running through my mind. Somehow it’s ok for those things to happen to my fictional characters, but not something I’d think of doing to anyone. “That Duck Dynasty dude”, if I remember rightly, placed himself as the doer of those evil deeds. If I had been him, I would have at least divorced myself from those actions and said “someone”. The literal takeaway is that it is his God that is preventing him from committing some evil shit against some other human being. How sad is that?
But I am straying from the topic … and what I want to say is that I guess I have always understood on some subliminal level what that fear can do to a person. Cripple, paralyse, cause one to be stuck and not be able to move forward. There is a panic and you think, “Oh no! My whole life is a lie!!!! Where does that leave me?” You think, “But … but … this is what I’ve known to be true forever. Everything I ever knew confirmed this truth. This new upstart of a person/thing/event trying to convince me otherwise is EVIL! Ah! Get away!”
Dramatic? Maybe. But deep down you know that it’s a verbal description of what goes on your head when the very definition of yourself and your life and your beliefs are challenged on fundamental levels.
I have suddenly come to this realisation on a very conscious level myself. While it isn’t your typical fundamentally challenged belief, it is still a fear that I am having difficulty letting go of — that of flying. I’ve never been afraid to fly in airplanes. In fact I have often said how ironic it is that I so love aircraft and flying when I am so cripplingly afraid of heights (and depths). A chance to ride in a plane, even if it is from Montego Bay to Kingston (about 15-20 minutes in flight — 10 minutes on each end for ascent and decent). “Yay! Plane ride!!! Whoohoo!” Never mind that the reason was because our car was stranded in Montego Bay and that was why we were flying home.
This Germanwings crash, though, is seriously challenging my love of flight. Seriously … I am thinking that knowing my rotten luck (don’t we often tell ourselves that we have rotten luck when we want to avoid doing something?), I would be on one of those flights that crashes and leaves no one alive. I saw an article on Vox this morning that tried to rationalise why that would never happen. Of course it started out with the point that aircraft crashes are still far less frequent than automobile crashes and exposed all the statistics that support that concept (I’ve used that one myself several times). Yet I found myself going “Yeah yeah. I ain’t flying again anytime soon if I can help it”. I slapped myself, of course. “My parents and many of my friends are still in Jamaica. That’s like abandoning them somehow! Stop it! You don’t mean that!”
Long story short, I get the “grip of fear” thing now. On a very visceral level. Sure I know that my sudden and paralysing fear of flying (maybe?) isn’t the same as a fear of the uprising of black people or the fear of godlessness and the void that creates; but it’s still fear that could get out of control easily in my head if I don’t cognitively and very deliberately talk myself out of it … every. single. time.
See what I did there?