Please Refuse to Let Fear Drive Your Politics

BlogHer Original Post

Tuesday is election day, and I can’t wait for it to be over. Every morning, the newspaper I read is chock full of articles analyzing voter anger and fear, predicting how these powerful emotions will be used as weapons by various candidates and parties (and employers) to manipulate voters. These are strong emotions, and how they are being used makes me ill.

There is a lot of concern about the rhetoric being used in this election season. This past weekend in DC, Jon Stewart hosted the Rally to Restore Sanity and Stephen Colbert led the March to Keep Fear Alive. (The two events combined into the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.) Sali Oguri blogged at Pink Manhattan about her experience at the event. She said:

I loved what Jon Stewart had to say in his closing speech, particularly about how amplifying everything makes it impossible to hear anything - losing sight of the forest for the trees ... I think the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was successful at illustrating how important it is for media (tabloids and otherwise, but especially the 24/7 red alert Faux on cable) to stop sensationalizing everything just for ratings or to make stories to stay in business, lest we lose perspective of the complexity of the issues we debate about. The rally reminded me how important it is to see people as individuals instead of stereotypes, or oversimplified demographic groups. I'm glad to have been there to support a cause to humanize individuals, to stop promoting fear and hate, and even if we disagree, to try to understand different voices, where they're coming from, so we may speak and debate freely within respectful, reasonable contexts.

Right here at BlogHer, CE Melissa Ford has a thoughtful post (full of great pictures) on the rally, comparing the need for tolerance to her nightmare about “a vomiting cyclops guinea pig” that she was forced to adopt and came to love. (I am soooo jealous of that metaphor, by the way.)

My former employer, Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), was so inspired by a High Holiday sermon delivered by Rabbi Sharon Brous at IKAR, “a Jewish spiritual community that stands at the intersection of spirituality and social justice,” about the need to overcome fear (“Al Tirah” - fear not - in the Torah) that they made a wonderful short film about it:

As a secular Jew and American, I love this video for so many reasons. The Torah, Brous says, tells us, “So dangerous is fear that we are warned repeatedly against losing ourselves to it.” We should fear not - al tirah. Brous’s call to “replace fear with open empathy - this our inheritance as Americans” stirs my soul. I hope that everyone will watch this thoughtful, beautiful short and be as inspired by it as I am. As Erica Brody wrote on JFSJ’s blog jspot, “Yesterday you may very well have had no idea that ‘Al Tirah!’ was Hebrew for ‘Fear Not!’ But today's a new day -- help spread the word, and our message of hope!”

I know that this environment of fear- and hate-mongering won’t end with the 2010 election cycle unless we demand that it does. On Wednesday and for days (probably even weeks) to follow, I’ll still be stuck reading stomach-churning pieces about voter anger, this time analyzing what actually happened. It’s my hope, though, that by joining with groups such as IKAR and JFSJ, and by publicly stating, like Oguri, Ford, and the other attendees of the Rally to Restore Sanity do, that this nastiness is not acceptable, we can at least restore civility, decency, and some tolerance to our national political discourse. As FDR said so poignantly, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Al Tirah.

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.

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