From Pat Lynn, Letter to the Editor: Act with Compassion, Not Out of Fear
Fear is a strong emotion. Traumatic experiences, phobias, or lack of confidence can cause people to be fearful in certain situations. However, when a government continuously promotes fear, it is ultimately to control the thinking and behavior of its population. In Hitler’s time it was fear of Jews; post-9/11, Americans have been constantly reminded to be fearful of “strange” behaviors, smells, appearances, parked cars, unattended items, and especially Muslims and Islam.
I was appalled at the article, “State Police Ask Public to Be Alert for Suspicious Activity,” appearing in the Reminder for the week of December 3rd. There was no author identified, but internal to the article is the suggestion that this is a bulletin straight from Emergency Management/Department of Homeland Security. The article specifically mentions “strange” behavior with no description of what might qualify as “suspicious.” Do we as citizens of Barry County really want to be calling 911 when a fellow citizen appears to be acting “strangely” or worry that our own “stressed out” activity might be interpreted by someone as “suspicious” and we’ll be turned into the authorities? Let’s examine some behaviors that might appear “strange” to someone else, but have an understandable explanation. A mentally ill person who is not properly medicated may be screaming at an invisible enemy. Someone whose bank has just refused to re-negotiate a mortgage, and is facing foreclosure, may make idle threats out of pure anger and utter defeat. A jobless mother facing a long winter with reduced heating assistance could appear suspicious when seen wandering up and down an aisle, stopping to fondle a toy gun, over and over again, wishing she could buy it as a Christmas surprise for her son. A father who has just lost custody of his children, and won’t be able to see them until after the holidays, might leave his briefcase in the court house, distracted by overwhelming sadness and loss. Someone who is homeless and hungry could appear strange wearing unusual clothing and moving in odd, repetitive ways, trying to stay warm. A combat veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may act very nervous or become agitated in a crowd of people.
Examples and explanations for “strange” behaviors are many, as are the hardships facing our fellow citizens in Barry County for whom there is often no relief in sight. Every person has his or her own unique way of feeling and acting in the face of adversity, and many of those behaviors or activities could appear “suspicious” to an observer. It seems to me that compassion is a more powerful, and appropriate emotion to practice with our fellow citizens in these difficult times. Compassion allows us to recognize and feel our shared humanity with another person and then compels us to act in some way to relieve their suffering or an injustice.
President Obama has stated he will now sign the National Defense Authorization Act, overwhelmingly passed by Congress, in which he is granted specific powers to authorize the military to arrest and indefinitely detain, without being charged or having a trial, any person anywhere in the world, including American citizens on American soil, merely “suspected” of being a terrorist or aiding a terrorist organization. The “suspicious” activities listed by Emergency Management/Department of Homeland Security are so vague that it is possible to imagine countless innocent activities that could result in an arrest.
There are real and serious problems facing us in our communities, country and world. Some issues are very scary especially when our elected representatives and other world leaders seem unwilling, or unable, to negotiate solutions. But, there is not a terrorist lurking around every corner. I refuse to allow fear to occupy my life or silence my voice.
Patricia Lynn, Delton