IMPORTANT – our divisions are deeper than politics

If I could have my friends – of every political stripe – read just one book, it would be Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.  I gave it John – to the two of us – for Christmas, intended to read it & discuss with John, then promptly forgot about it.  Only came across it yesterday because of hunting down Brene’s original reference to “marble jar friends” (found it in – Daring Greatly).

Cracking it open in high hopes of finding a long-ago read quote in a book I had barely opened, my eye lit on a passage & my heart froze.  And raced.  My mind whirled. And went dead calm as Brene explained that she is not an expert in terrorism but there are few, if any, more deeply knowledgeable about fear.  And “terrorism is time-released fear.

Pure & simple.

That’s what I’ve been trying to put my finger on: Osama Bin Laden didn’t direct those planes to take down buildings & kill innocents; he did it to sow fear that would bear its greatest damage long years after 9/11.  Ditto Dylann Roof murdering the very people who had made him welcome to their church – to kick off a race war, the impact gets stronger with the years.  Bin Laden’s box cutters ignited our vulnerabilities, while the backlash against the Confederate flag made countless people across the USA feel like their worst fears were being realized as the government came after THEM.

Time-released fear.

It reminds me of a movie about a group of WWII commandos tasked with taking out a key bridge.  It’s designed to stand any attack, by air or land;  the men aim to destroy a major dam up river, letting the force of its raging waters do their work.  The men charged with detonating it were dismayed at the piddly explosion, so minor the Germans weren’t even aware of it.  But what began out as the teensiest crack in that giant dam became a massive hole then the water descended upon the targeted bridge with such tremendous force, it took down the invincible structure.  Nature did what explosives could not.  Bin Laden counted on our human natures doing what he knew his explosives would not.

Americans need to WAKE UP to what is happening.   Brene’s words relate to ALL of us.  If we, as a nation, don’t wake up to that & turn things around… well, things will not end well.

I started my research six months before 9/11, and I’ve watched fear change our families, organizations, and communities. Our national conversation is centered on, “What should we fear?” and, “Who should we blame?” I’m not an expert on terrorism, but after studying fear for 15 years, here’s what I can tell you: Terrorism is time-released fear. Its ultimate goal is to embed fear so deeply in the heart of a community that fear becomes a way of life. This unconscious way of living then fuels so much anger and blame that people start to turn on one another. Terrorism is most effective when we allow fear to take root in our culture. Then it’s only a matter of time before we become fractured, isolated, and driven by our perceptions of scarcity.

In a hardwired way, the initial trauma and devastation of violence unites human beings for a relatively short period of time. If during that initial period of unity we’re allowed to talk openly about our collective grief and fear–if we turn to one another in a vulnerable and loving way, while at the same time seeking justice and accountability–it can be the start to a very long healing process. If, however, what unites us is a combination of shared hatred and stifled fear that’s eventually expressed as blame, we’re in trouble.