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An Era Defined by Fear []


[Photo credit:  “Fear,” by Yves Tanguy, from 1949. Credit 2019 Estate of Yves Tanguy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]

Another synagogue shooting. Another day of shock. Another lonely fanatic. Another cascade of insecurity and fear.

I wonder if we’ve fully grasped how fear pervades our society and sets the emotional tone for our politics. When historians define this era they may well see it above all else as a time defined by fear. The era began on Sept. 11, 2001, a moment when a nation that had once seemed invulnerable suddenly felt tremendously unsafe. In the years since, the shootings have been a series of bloody strikes out of the blue.

It’s been an era when politicians rise by stoking fear. Donald Trump declared an “American carnage” and made it to the White House by warning of an immigrant crime wave that doesn’t exist.

Fear also comes up from below, in the form of childhood trauma and insecurity. It sometimes seems as if half of America’s children grow up in strained families and suffer Adverse Childhood Experiences that make it hard for them to feel safe. The other half grow up in overprotective families and emerge into adulthood unready to face the risks that will inevitably come. Depression rates rise. Safe spaces proliferate. Collegiate mental health systems are overwhelmed.

To read the entire opinion by David Brooks, click here. 

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