I spent last week in what we refer to as “the Deep South”. Auto-correct will actually capitalize that for you when you type it because it is a proper name. While there I tried to, without the us-vs them part of my brain turned on, feel what was different about where I was to the places I’ve been. I do this everywhere I go and always get interesting results. This time the fundamental feeling was one I’ve not experienced before. The base feeling I felt underneath everything was something that I can only call fear. Fear can be a big heavy word but where I was it seemed that it was so constant and thinly spread over everything, like netting, that it was kind of difficult to focus on. It was like when you look at the air above a hot road in the summer and it shimmers and moves. It was visible and invisible at all times.
I don’t mean to say everyone was walking around afraid. What I meant was, especially on the long quiet roads full of shotgun houses and trailers mixed with driveways so long you couldn’t see the house at the end, there was a feeling of “please don’t dare take what I have”.
The fear of losing what you have is something I’ve discussed with a lot of people lately. The fear that the government will take your gun, your land, your money. The fear that an immigrant will take your job. The fear that someone with darker skin will take your life. The fear someone will take your God. That fear. The fear that is always ready to spring into action. To react whenever someone or something tries to present a different option. That fear says “I cannot let my guard down because what will happen if I do?! You don’t understand. You are OTHER.” I have felt this in other places but never anywhere so consistently without break in the fabric. (Note: this is absolutely not a criticism, the south is beautiful and the people are incredible.)
I felt all this in a way I’ve never felt before and it made me so sad but I also understand. I understand why it is so difficult to disentangle from that netting. I’m in NO way putting down anyone who stayed in their home town or who have not had the means to explore. Many have not and I cannot judge. For me it would have lead to a much more narrow view of who people are and what they are capable of. Living in 3 of the largest cities in the world and traveling for more than just vacations. REALLY talking to people along the way. That has grown my view so much. It has also lessened my fear and grown my love. My love is huge, my fear is inconsequential.
Fear closes down. It shrinks. It narrows and narrows until there is just a dot of light and that light is your own. Fear builds fences and walls and locks, not just outside ourselves but inside as well. Fear screams in the face of someone attempting to show love. Fear doesn’t see the difference. It makes everyone besides ourselves OTHER.
Love moves us forward. It allows us to hear. It connects us with others. It puts us on the same level as the person standing next to us that may have different opinions. Love sees where each of us overlap and connect. It finds common ground and builds there. It makes everyone besides ourselves part of us and it makes us proud.
Whenever I do something, especially recently, I ask myself if I’m doing it with love or because of fear. Loving without fear is scary and that seems like a contradiction but it is not. Consider the root of your action and go from there. That is where the future needs to head. Sometimes life is scary. Sometimes you only have a little and you fear someone will take that. Examine your fear and keep examining it. Fear isn’t red or blue, it is everywhere and it is suffocating us. Each of us are responsible for our own fear. Take responsibility. Expand.