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The only thing we have to fear is irrational fear itself

September 23rd, 2010

Ah, the glory days. Back when I was a freshman, JCU’s dining service was top notch. To-go boxes were free. You could use a meal swipe at Einstein’s for breakfast and at the Inn Between for dinner. And in the dining hall, you could grab a tray right when you walked in and put as many plates on it as you wanted.

That all lasted until Barack Obama was elected president…

I’m kidding, of course. But I’m sure Obama must miss his glory days too. He arrived at the White House while riding on a massive amount of popular support. Now his approval rating is less than 50 percent. So where did all his support go?

To be honest, it’s no surprise that Obama’s poll numbers have taken a hit. I think the only president whose poll numbers didn’t go down after two years was William Henry Harrison. (Too soon!)

But what’s alarming is why his ratings have gone down. 

There are a lot of really good reasons to disagree with Obama’s policies. Maybe you don’t like his stance on taxes, or the economy, or health care, or foreign policy, or all of the above. But unfortunately, the more I talk to people, and the more I read the newspaper, and the more I trove around the dirty basement of the Internet in the comment section of blogs and YouTube videos, the more I realize that what is really hurting Obama’s approval ratings is irrational fear. 

You all know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, you’re probably guilty. Just over this past weekend, for example, a man told me that he honestly believed Obama wanted to reform health care so that, if you couldn’t afford a certain medication or procedure, the government would not let you get it – even if your life depended on it. What was even scarier about this belief was that it came from an educated, upper-class family man. 

Here’s another example: a couple weeks ago, one of my friends admitted in innocent, wide-eyed sincerity that he heard Obama wanted to get rid of credit cards and, instead, give everyone a certain amount of money to spend based on their job.

Now I’m sure every president has been affected at least a little bit by the rumor mill, but it seems to be different for Obama. A recent Pew Research Survey found that 12 percent of Americans believe the rumor that Obama is Muslim. A similar percentage believes the rumor that he was not born in the United States.

How is this nation supposed to have a legitimate political conversation when people think the president is a communist Muslim foreigner who wants to kill your grandma? 

Here’s the answer: it can’t. 

I’m not sure exactly where this fear is stemming from, although I could probably take a couple guesses. But I won’t get into that now. Instead, I want to point out the dangers of a society that lives in fear. Fear fogs the mind, confuses the conscience, and can make a person violate the values that he or she holds most dear. Fear is also reflexive. People fear things they don’t know that much about.

Events from this past summer show that this irrational fear of Obama is oozing into other parts of society. The Arizona immigration law revealed Americans’ fear of immigrants. The overturning of Proposition 8 in California revealed our fear of homosexuals. And the infamous “Ground Zero Mosque” has revealed our fear of Muslims. 

But a pretty famous American once said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”