Fear Itself…

FDR famously declared that ” the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” It was 1933, and the country was still reeling from the Great Depression.

Almost 100 years later, the U.S. is dealing with a pandemic, but otherwise most of us are in far better shape than people were in 1933. (For that matter, there’s an argument to be made that if it wasn’t for the people holding an “unreasoning, unjustified” fear of vaccines, the pandemic would be largely behind us.) Our sour national mood is almost entirely attributable to a political environment  characterized by fear–a fear that has led to Congressional gridlock and refusal to deal with reality.

A friend recently sent me the results of a poll conducted by Axios–results that puzzled her. The poll showed heightened levels of fear across the political spectrum, but far higher  among those identifying as Republicans. She had a reasonable reaction: yes, rational Americans have reason to be fearful of Republicans’ persistent attacks on democratic institutions–but what do the Republicans fear? And why is fear so much higher among them?

Whatever they told the pollsters, I’m pretty sure that what most of today’s Republicans really fear is demographic change and the loss of White Christian privilege. It’s that fear that is motivating their frenzied attacks on democracy and “one person, one vote.” 

There’s an enormous amount of research corroborating that conclusion. Over the past decade, as popular culture and media outlets have paid more attention to their demographic decline, Americans who equate “real Americanism” with being White and Christian have seen headlines describing the waning of their share of the population; in 2017, numerous outlets headlined the fact that the country’s White Christian population had dipped below 50% for the first time.

Or, as one 2019 headline put it, “White Christian America ended in the 2010s.”

The author of the article, Robert P. Jones, heads up the Public Religion Research Institute. He wrote

Of all the changes to identity and belonging, the century’s second decade has been particularly marked by a religious sea change. After more than two centuries of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance, the United States has moved from being a majority-white Christian nation to one with no single racial and religious majority.

When I first identified this shift mid-decade in my 2016 book “The End of White Christian America,” I noted that the percentage of white Christians in the general population had dropped from 53 percent to 47 percent between 2010 and 2014 alone. Now, at the end of the decade, only 42 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian, representing a drop of 11 percentage points.

Jones recited the statistics: since 2010, the number of White evangelical Protestants has dropped from 21 percent of the population to 15 percent. Today they are roughly the same size as their white mainline Protestant cousins (15 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively).

In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, for the first time, there was an absolute decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population. In other words, whites not only lost ground as a proportion of the population, but in actual numbers; there were more deaths than births. The U.S. Census Bureau now predicts that the U.S. will no longer be majority-white by 2045, and among children at every age below 10, whites are already a minority.

Research tells us that White Christians have become deeply anxious about the future and unrealistically nostalgic for the past. That anxiety and nostalgia “has fueled support for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda, and not just among white evangelicals.”

Solid majorities of each white Christian subgroup voted for Trump in 2016 and, in the Public Religion Research Institute’s most recent American Values Survey, nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) white evangelicals and approximately two-thirds of both white mainline Protestants (68 percent) and white Catholics (65 percent) oppose impeaching and removing him from office.

White Christian America’s attraction to Trump has little to do with his personality or character — a slim majority (52 percent) of white evangelicals, for example, say they wish his speech and behavior were more like previous presidents — and everything to do with something more important: their belief that “making America great again” necessarily entails restoring white Christian demographic and political dominance.

These are the fears that motivate today’s GOP base–its opposition to immigration and hysteria over “Critical Race Theory,” among other things, and its determination to retain social dominance and privilege no matter how unconstitutional or unChristian the means and no matter how damaging to the nation.

Fear is a potent motivator but a very bad navigator.

 

25 thoughts on “Fear Itself…

  1. Thank you for sharing the statistics. Intuitively, the answer is what I suspected, but I didn’t have the numbers. I never had any doubts that the decision I made 50+ years ago to raise my sons to know, understand and appreciate diversity was the correct one, even though it was not always understood or appreciated by all of my fellow Hoosiers.

  2. Yes, fear is a potent motivator. It has been used by our rulers long before our foundational documents were scribed.

    Here is an article from one of the Deep States’ many propaganda outfits. Listen to its tone:

    “The DoD needs to compete now and engage in offensive hybrid warfare actions. The United States must respond where competition with China and Russia is taking place today, primarily by playing an enhanced role in the gray-zone competition,” read the report, which was led by the Atlantic Council’s Clementine Starling, Air Force Lt. Col. Tyson Wetzel, and Christian Trotti ― with former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.”

    https://www.c4isrnet.com/information-warfare/2022/01/04/why-the-us-should-fight-russia-china-in-the-gray-zone/

    I jumped over to the Atlantic Council’s article where it’s wrought with fear urging Biden to act aggressively toward China and Russia. LOL

    All these propaganda sheets are funded by Defense Contractors who get paid by taxpayers to market their propaganda to the people to hype up fear.

    It’s a perpetual cycle paid for by taxpayers. We are creating our own chaos with the help of an oligarchy-controlled media and political base – both democrats and republicans.

    We have to stop letting them use the Left to divide the Right. As you can clearly see in Washington, the fight between the two parties is classical Shakespeare. It’s the same locally. It’s a con game with fear as a motivator because it works on sleeping humans. 😉

  3. Are authorities positive Omicrom is a variant of Covid-19; could it be a new flu at epidemic stage?

    I watched an interview with new New York City Mayor Adams this morning; much hullabaloo about his determination to keep schools open using precautions. I thought back to the 1960s and the epidemics of childhood diseases long before vaccines had been developed. We sent our children to school, crossed our fingers and hoped. My oldest son was in first grade; I sent him to school blemish free but soon got a call from the school to come and get him, the school nurse diagnosed him with chicken pox. The teacher said he was sitting next to the windows and the warmth of the February sun brought out the chicken pox pustules. So; I had unknowingly sent him to school to infect others; within a day or two my two other children were covered with pox. Between February and June they also had measles, mumps and whichever flu was epidemic at the time.

    We now have precautionary measures to lower chances, not only in schools but in businesses, to wear masks, social distance and at the first sniffle most of us have home tests to use. If we are going to isolate as protection I suggest we learn the political affiliation of those we will be in contact with and avoid Republicans, not through fear, but common sense, a precautionary measure and awareness of the statistics pointing to them as the current Typhoid Marys of the 21st Century. Sadly; they have already passed on the virus to more than other unmasked, unvaxxed Republicans; breakthrough cases can be traced to contact with the great unvaxxed masses.

    The epidemic of Trump Republicans surrounds us; their fears of losing control, power and especially money has a death grip on government at many state levels and maintains their grip at the federal level. “fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Is it fear of Republicans that is holding back progress of the Democratic majority to end this Pandemic; the fears of the silent majority in their Congressional minority feeds the fear of the GOP at large.

    As an aside; what is causing the increasing numbers of those quitting jobs? And, what are they doing to support themselves and their families? What is the political affiliation of those numbers? Where is that movement leading us as a nation?

    “Fear is a potent motivator but a very bad navigator.”

  4. Mea culpa and shame on my editing skills. It was my THREE other children who became infected.

  5. One thing I’ve noticed, the bigger the cross around the neck, the bigger the crook.

    Those that remain fearful about everything, are those that are the loudest. Unfortunately the news media loves to get the frantic disheveled lunatics on camera, and it just plays directly to the politicians who know how to manipulate the fear, latent or not.

    If Christians conducted themselves like Christians are supposed to, we wouldn’t have this issue. Romans the 13th chapter, being subjection to the superior authorities, James 1:27, take care of the widows and orphans. And of course one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read, The book of Daniel which talks about idolatry amongst many many other things.

    We worship politicians, we worship sports superstars, we love celebrity so much that we manufacture them like the Kardashians. The influencers on tiktok and YouTube and whatever else, who are they? What does their existence actually do for anyone? I enjoy a good professional or college game of any sort. But I sure wouldn’t pine over anyone except Christ.

    At least the Romans stayed around for over a thousand years because of the bread and circuses mandate by the Caesar’s. Keep the citizenry occupied with something. The politicians are attempting that bury thing right now especially on the right, and it worked so well that it’s paralyzed government.

    I have no great love for this country that we live in, but it is my home country. But I’ve had many many family members murdered because of the color of their skin. I’ve lost both of my brothers younger than me, my grandmother lost five brothers because of the color of their skin. The other five brothers of hers fought in world war ii! My mother used to tell me about my great-grandmother which was her grandmother, finding out that her youngest was murdered in wisconsin, and she couldn’t take it anymore and started to hemorrhage from her nose and mouth and bled to death in bed. That’s what I look at, that’s what shaped me, or the Germans where we lived in Chicago that used to tell me when I was four and five years old walking to school that they would shoot me out the window. They would call me the n word, so, I have no love for those who claim they were Christian, because those that did the damage to my family were considered Christians. White Christians.

    I had an epiphany many years ago, and I quit going out and hunting some of those people who damaged my family. I realized that I wasn’t conducting myself in an appropriate manner. In other words I had to change my personality from one of hate to one of loving my neighbor loving my enemy’s loving God. Unfortunately not many others are doing the same thing. So the die is cast, this political system, this experiment, has failed. Society is so incohisive that it can never be repaired. By time these baby boomers and their children die out, this country will not resemble anything but a disjointed bunch of territorial ragtag tribes. There can never be any sort of natural agreement between anybody nowadays. The only way to get around some of this would be to develop an authoritarian government, like was mentioned yesterday in my comment. Other than that, it’s just going to go from bad to worse until there is nothing left to rebuild.

  6. How much fear would we have if the unscrupulous among us weren’t out there promoting it every chance they get? How many Republicans would really fear their new neighbors, if 45, and McConnell, and MTG, and Cawthorn, and Gaetz, and Boebert, et al, were doing their jobs, rather than whiling away their days ginning up the base?

  7. Healthy fear and respect of enemy capability is a necessary foundation of human emotional capital that wins the war. We have witnessed how this pillar behind a superior force wins time and time again.

    We are in a global war against a common enemy, COVID, that does not distinguish race, partisanship or privilege, age, creed, beliefs, gender, or nationality to vanquish its victims. If you are disciplined to comply with local and regional public health directives, including medically efficacious proven vaccinations, you have far less to fear.

    Healthy fear with proven guard rails is a pathway to life. Foolish fear accompanied by obstinate refusal to ignore guard rails is a certain pathway to death and the ultimate privacy of your own grave where you will be left alone in perpetuity.

  8. WADR – while the fear of diversity is one fear, it is not the only one. There is now, more than ever, fear of corrupt/ineffective government, the rise of women, the cultural acceptance of “no standards” for speech, behavior, dress, etc.., big tech, our seeming inability to stand up to the Russians/Chinese, etc.

  9. seems the well to do, ultras,or just monied ones has a big hand in keeping the fires fed. its part a devide of the race but a total realignment of how some think. keeping the fires lit under the race issue allows the nationalists to come outta the woodwork to gain ligtimate ground.the devide of how you say,all those unemployed who dont wanna work, etc,etc,er, everyone i know is working,some have 2-3 jobs,try again. seems the blather of whos doin what is far more important than,whos doin what? every turn trump made in the WH was a show, while republicans changed things to suit others,and it wasnt for the working class, or the economic issues increasing poverty. media hype allows the ignorant,(let face it,they target the ignorant) to run amuck on a few subjects that distract the real issues in thier lives. i talk with the closed minds everyday, no one give a thought at why they are always in debts,credited to the ! and why everthing really costs so much. the theory they have,is planted,by the very media they listen to, and whats yelled the loudest into,thier ears( and feels the best). i love swinging the conversation to why the rich have so much, its your wages they pocketed while congress allows this.( p.s. mainly the republicans,as a whole,and the corprate demos. )recently i was again in conversation with a blue collar who, said his company held part of his pay for delivering a load late.really? took money out of his paycheck,as some sort of fine, yep,he signed a release when being employed,allowing it. i remember well, there was a federal law against it. now it seems commonplace. how many republicans signed onto that one?and passed it… at least as far as the bradley foundation and its like ilk. like these, i believe foundations are mainly think tanks,allowed to sow discourse,while screwing the very people,they so called are trying to help.
    how many think tanks?and supported by who? that actully cause the greatest harm to democracy? seems the fairness doctrine was eliminated for this reason..
    social media is only a vehicle to spread it. commercial news media is a clogged toilet,allowing the garbage to spew,where it wants it to.a recent piece by John Nichols on democracy is a fact filled piece,but who the hell tells a nationalist to try reading it? that free speech buddy, was granted to you as an American, and that free speech you relate with,is distroying that very right..seems a shame we educate,to become ignorant. alot i will say, is handed down. dealing with blue collars and meeting family, its a show in itself to watch them seriously haggle the present issues. i usually leave, sicken by the conversation..Ron Wyden has proposed a bill to stop suckerburgs world of misinformation via,by private information thru social medias. we need a real privacy regs like the euros. you have to opt in,if you want your searches,privacy and etc. made public,or, in any form sold,traded leased,given etc,..if every key stroke is a legitmate use of social media,with the present costs,then obviously,we have allowed it….

  10. Its not white vs black but big government over reach and overspending that Americans should be concerned about. Reality shows that wholesale prices last month rose 9.6%, that hurts the poor more than anyone else. In a Johnny Carson interview in 1975 of Ronald Reagan, the former governor made it clear that government budget deficits are clearly tied to inflation. Last year and this year huge relief bills bailed out many businesses and families. But as the media and bloggers with special interests backing them hammer politicians with common sense, we once again see how liberals not conservatives are willing to further the damage to the average family and totally ignore the signals that are way too easily seen. What is the real problem, it is that everyone has blind folds on.
    Good luck America! Blindfolds and all.
    Every black coworker I ask, “Is it working?”. Answers back no, the current President is eorse than the last. That may be true. But its like Obama stated, “Its Congresses fault”. It wont stop until we get fiscally responsible people in Congress.

  11. I was corrected yesterday for treating people in groups. That indeed is a problem but one without a solution for systemic failures. Treating people as individuals is naturally the right thing to do when talking to them individually but impossible when writing anything published to a larger audience than a letter.

  12. The US has been presented with two possible futures. Those who fear choice A, do so in part because they fear choice B. And vice versa.

    Authoritarian politics is a common fear for both choices. Both fear the other choice will change our government from what it has always been to something new and more authoritarian.

    My sense from people who favor the opposite choice because they fear my choice, is that what they are made uncomfortable about is not the form of our government at all, but modern inclusive culture. My sense is that we don’t control culture, it controls us, and it does so to maintain society in synch with the reality of the world we are part of, like it or not. Politicians though who offer them Choice A for government tell them that is the best choice because it can manage culture. My sense is that the government solution that those politicians offer, firstly cannot change culture, and second will be authoritarian because power is job security for politicians.

    Democracy is only possible with shared power that reflects the collective will of the people and democratic government manages the affairs of the country not the affairs of society which is what culture is. That’s the single point that used to be part of our culture but has been weakened is service of political job security.

  13. Pete – yup…the “natural” thing is to scapegoat groups as an “identity”…how about “people who believe this” or “people who do/don’t do this”…instead of Republicans, or bureaucrats or Magas or….whatever? A root cause of the harshness of our divides?

  14. A lot of good comments, as usual. Regarding big government, it’s really big business that tells us how to live, what we can and can’t say, what wars we need to throw our money away on, when young men and women we need to brainwash into giving up their lives and health for. If ONLY we had a government that actually respected our Constitution, which is still the GREAT EXPERIMENT. We are a country of immigrants – unless you are indigenous – so, get used to it. All people are created equally – – even those who look a little different or talk differently – – get used to it. We actually CAN worship however we want to as long as we don’t force others to believe as we do – – get used to it !! In fact, I see a lot of people who don’t care enough about others to even wear a small paper mask – – wimps!! Gosh, I’m almost in full Mommy mode.

  15. What many white “Christian” Americans fail to understand is that our democracy is founded on certain principles i.e. all are created equal. It is not founded on any one religious ideology nor on any one race. It was not written by people who had a nation of so much diversity. And yes, some of them were slave owners , and many viewed native Americans as “savages”. Many immigrants come to our country because they believe in the principles of our democracy and want a better life for themselves and their children. Some of them are Muslim. Some of them are Jewish, Sikh. Some of them may be atheist.

    They don’t know that Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible which excluded all the miracles attributed to Jesus. They don’t know that the suffragettes wrote a commentary on the Bible that confronted its misogyny.

    They also fail to understand that our democracy is not a static reality; it is not written in stone. Our democracy is an evolving process and must struggle with moral ambiguity. It has to respond responsibly to a rapidly changing world.

    The founders of our country were fallible humans and yet, they created foundational principles that led to our great experiment in democracy.

    Martin Luther King exhorted us to judge someone by his/her/their character not by the color of their skin. I would add not by their gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Those who are dominated by fear only confirm what is said in Dune “Fear is the mind killer.”

  16. John Sorg–you pretty much summed up my thoughts. I also want to share a story my co-worker told me. She is white, grew up in Alabama and raised as a strict Southern Baptist. She met, fell in love with a man of color whose son was killed by police and when they travel to the beaches in the Florida Panhandle they do not stop in Mississippi.

    Her family from Alabama threatened to kill him and made such horrific comments that I am certain you are familiar with and her husband commented that he is fully aware of racism but it wasn’t until he met her self-proclaimed Christian family did he experience the vile hate. I am sharing your story with her.

    I am a Christian, not an Evangelical and I do often ask her–wtf is wrong w/ the evangelicals? Do not lump me as a Christian into the Joyce Meyer, Franklin Graham, and Joel Olsteen nut jobs

  17. Lester, there is some hope that the GOP has finally seen the actual end game from divide and conquer which is, both sides adopt that strategy.

  18. I do not agree that “It’s over” and that it is time to surrender our democracy to authoritarian control. Today’s political climate created by a mentally ill narcissist is not the worst this country has experienced, as those who experienced the Civil War and Reconstruction could tell us if they were here today. We have endured slavery, the Panic of 1873, the First but not yet today’s Second Gilded Age, the Great Depression and several wars – and are still standing.

    The present chasm between Democrats and Republicans is one of several we have experienced and can be bridged in time, though it may not seem so when within the depths of the fray, as now. Our task, it seems to me, is to stand up for preservation of our democracy by ending the reasons for our discord via debate and compromise and removing those from public office who would profit from a continuation of the brawl. It will not be easy and it will not be accomplished overnight, just as it was not with the divide north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line after the Ford Theater disaster.

    The reason I know it can be done is because we have succeeded in bridging such chasms before as cooler heads in search of unity prevailed, so let’s hang tough but remain open to what needs to be done and undone in search of such unity, starting today.

  19. Were not most of the people who are discussing fear held by others just now, also under the weight of fear during the previous administration?

    It seems we experience fear when we believe we may lose what we think we have. Uncertainty helps to fuel that sense of potential loss, which by the way has been with home sapiens since their coming into the material world. It has a core in survival, and can be a strong motivating factor.

    PBS Frontline last night on Jan 6, 2021 event, re-evoked my fear. Fear of loss of my comfortable somewhat safe world I have known for over 70 decades.

    How about you, have you reconsidered what you are fearful of……for me, deeper considerations than talking about what we think about others.

  20. Elaine,

    I definitely Can’t be angry with you about anything.

    I appreciate The traumatic situations that you have been involved in. Christ told us that we had to have compassion and empathy. What happens when someone feels that they have the authority to judge their fellow man, They become superior and Think of themselves as some sort of Avenging Angel. When I was younger, I used to See people that mistreated me when I was a preteen and teenager, It made me angry when they didn’t recognize me. I won’t go into all the details, because they really get me riled up, to this day!

    God said Vengeance is mine and retribution Deuteronomy 32:35 .

    Also, In the old and New Testament, we are told not to take vengeance into our own hands. Because we are not judges . So in Leviticus 19:18 Romans 20:19 and Hebrews 10: 30 God made it clear We were not to hold grudges or seek personal vengeance against oneself or to someone else.

    What I’ve come to realize, is that my conduct was inappropriate towards my fellow man. Because you can’t lump every single human in the same category. Personally that’s hard for me. I really have to keep Those tendencies before God, otherwise I would end up reverting back to what I once was and It was not pleasant.

    Folks fail to realize, when you abuse and mistreat someone, It leaves something behind that tends to be unpleasant. And I will say those whom I found that had done things to my person or those in my family, It was definitely unpleasant, that’s about all I can say. waking up thrashing while having a nightmare, being completely out of control, not even short fused. If it hadn’t been for my wonderful wife sticking with me all these years, I’m sure I wouldn’t be breathing right now.

    Retribution Seemed like a good idea at one time, especially with the individuals that Took my youngest brother. But, My wife helped me realize through much grief on her part, that doing something to somebody else wasn’t going to Bring anyone back. The doc told me that I had one of the worst cases of PTSD he had ever seen. I never even knew what that was at the time. I just knew that I was full of anger and hate constantly, my fuse was always lit. I would always look for an excuse to plow someone’s face in or even worse.

    But when I realized The promises that have been made in scripture, Actually meditated on them, With the constant help of my Wonderful wife, who always kept those things in front of me and always spoke to me even on my worst days. One thing that I always Think about now, is not to profane the name of God. And it’s quite relieving that Vengeance will be in his hands. I don’t worry about What anyone thinks about my beliefs, Because those beliefs keep me from doing harm to others.

    There have been a couple of times when I’ve slipped up, but for the most part I really work hard everyday to sanctify God’s name and his word. And I definitely know that those who are out there preaching about their Christianity and using it for nefarious activity, are going to end up paying a price for it. Not one that I’m going to Have anything to do with, but, The big guy will deal with that.

    Christ explicitly talked about this at Matthew 24:36. Also, Luke 18:2-8 Is something that is very comforting. You can break out the old Bible and read that one. I would also encourage you to read Revelation 6:9-11. Anyway, I appreciate Your kind words, Stay prayerful Elaine. It really does work!

  21. “…the bigger the cross,” absolutely!
    Fear is the big mover, and the sociopaths know it!
    Pam, I’m afraid that those bozos see themselves as doing their jobs, by “ginning up their base.”

  22. John….Thank you! I have found myself back in the church. I never gave up on God, but on so many of his people who claim to be Christians but act so un-Christ like and so I left organized religion for almost 20 yrs. Yes. Prayer does work!! Your story really made a positive impact.

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