Confronting Our Fears
I read an article on NPR online this week in which former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “Americans will only lose touch with the freedom-loving, open society we enjoy if we take such counsel of our fears that we change who we are." Powell argues that 10 years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 the thing that we must guard against most is fear.
Sept.11, 2001, was my first day of college — a day full of hopes and new beginnings. What started as an ordinary morning of freshman English, quickly dissolved into a day of shock, horror, and sadness. My classmates and I stood paralyzed in front of TV screens. So many people. We live in a world of constant calamity and sadness but on that day we were confronted with a new idea, most of us have never had to say before, It could have been me. The father of a girl who lived on my floor worked at the Pentagon. It was us, Americans at work, on vacation, walking home.
The events of 9/11 exposed our vulnerability. I also think they also exposed our fears. It exposed our fear of the “the other.” Of that which is different and foreign, that we didn’t understand or know, or could even name.
As a teenager, I had the opportunity to participate in a leadership group, “Youth Leadership Greensboro,” which exposed teens to various aspects of community life from local business to local government. Part of the yearlong experience involved an overnight weekend with fellow participants where we were invited to discuss various difficult topics- racism, sexuality, peer pressure, stereotypes, while also getting to know one another. What I remember most about that weekend is I met and got to know kids from all different cultures, races, economic and religious backgrounds. I was forced to confront my fears and stereotypes of those who were different than me. I discovered that what we shared was common humanity. Difference was respected, friendships formed, understanding and hope emerged.
I think that whenever possible, we must confront our deepest fears with the kind of understanding that longs to discover common humanity, builds hope, and becomes a force for good in the world. The most repeated phrase in Christian scripture is “Fear Not.” Fear leaves us paralyzed in a world of possibility.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ten years after 9/11, those words might just contain the kind of wisdom that could save us all.
The entry is one in a series of reflections for prayer, meditation, and thinking in preparation for a special Gathering for Reflection, Discussion and Prayer in response to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (and all that has come after that date) on Sept. 7. This event will be led by the pastors and held in the Pinnacle Chapel at 7 p.m. on that Wednesday. We hope that you will join us on Sept. 7.