United in Fear

I had never heard of Gabrielle Giffords until her name appeared below a breaking news headline on Saturday 8th January. I didn’t know she was a member of the US congress, what party she represented, whether she was liked, good at her job, or known nationally within the States.

But I was shocked by the images, people crying, chaos,panic, paramedics rushing towards helicopters.

Six people died, one only a child, fourteen injured, while Giffords still fights in a hospital bed.

A lone gunman and lethal intent changed the lives of many.

In the ten days since I have seen something I recognised – fear. With fear comes blame, a natural human reaction that often masks our fear so well we never have to acknowledge it. Blame is the great distraction and has been very busy, even in this case where the gunman is known and under arrest. Blame the opposition party, another candidates tactics, the right-wing media, the mental health system, blame the sheriff’s office, blame. And blame sometimes makes change happen and lets us feel a little better. We can see a result of our anger and relax, thinking we have lessened our vulnerability.

In the ten years since I lived in the US many, many things have changed. The ‘Other’ has been demonized, whether a mild-mannered, dark-skinned young man or someone wearing clothes that signify their religious beliefs or someone who thinks differently. These obvious targets have been easy to spot and easy to alienate to isolate their differences.

But this time someone like the boy next door pulled the trigger. Disturbed, yes, with a history of erratic behaviour and problems, but someone you’d walk by in the supermarket without a glance. Someone not initially recognizable as a threat. That is what we fear most, the unknowable violence that may exist in the heart and mind of anyone in our environment. And ironically fear is what unites all who pursue and demean those different to themselves.

Before we can deal with our fear, we need to accept our vulnerability.

We need to acknowledge that our blame should not light on easy or obvious scapegoats and that it is a distraction from hard and complicated issues, and processes that need to change. We need to acknowledge that fearing the unknown and the different narrows our views and our minds. There is no easy solution to prevent tragedies like this from happening again, but one thing is certain we cannot let fear overwhelm our desire to live.

We cannot let it prevent us from standing up for what we believe, from doing good for others, from letting ourselves be seen.

A HYBRID AMBASSADORS blog-ring project.

You met our multinational Dialogue 2010 cultural innovators last spring in a roundtable discussion of hybrid life at expat+HAREM and followed their reactions to a polarizing book promotion. In this round they offer their thoughts on the recent shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona.

Add your voice to the conversation. Join the discussi online prescription drugs on on Twitter using #HybridAmbassadors.

More thoughts on this subject from my fellow hybrid ambassadors:
Tara Lutman Agacayak’s Enough
Catherine Bayar’s We the People
Elmira Bayraslı’s The Irresponsible Country
Sezin Koehler’s The Culture of Violence

8 thoughts on “United in Fear

  1. Sezin says:

    I love what you say about the shooter being the kind of all-American boy that the general public has not been taught to fear. Spot on, Catherine. America needs a serious revolution.

  2. Anastasia says:

    Thanks for linking the vulnerability issue (and Brene Brown’s wholeheartedness study) to what basically amounts to a refusal to embrace our inherent vulnerability and the unknowability of life…beautiful, strong post Catherine!

  3. Catherine Bayar says:

    Thanks for this rational post Catherine. Fear has so many faces, and blame is the one most on view in the aftermath of these shootings. One far too easily turned to that other, even more destructive face – anger. These times do take courage, like Giffords herself said, in a commencement address at Alma Mater Scripps College in May 2009: “The safety of the world depends on your saying ‘no’ to inhumane ideas. Standing up for one’s own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest… expressions of courage I know.”

  4. Yazarc says:

    Thanks for all the comments.
    Catherine that fear is all I’m seeing from the US at the moment. I don’t know enough about the situation on the ground there to see the subtleties of other responses, just fear.
    Sezin, there is no single common trait that identifies someone capable of this and that is scary.
    Anastasia, that talk has resonated with me so much since I saw it, it grows a little more meaningful everyday.
    Tara, the motivation has to be strong to move past such paralysing fear.

  5. Pingback: Enough

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