“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.' — Pastor Charles Stanley.
It is without question that we find ourselves in the middle of a downward spiral. There are of course many reasons for America's decline — the death of manufacturing, dependence of foreign oil, political correctness — but there is one that overrides them all, a cancer so insidious that it eats away at the very essence of this nation's life force.
It has grown at an exponential rate largely due to the 24/7 super-hyped news cycle, and now that fear threatens to destroy the very fabric that holds America together.
Its latest victim was the NFL, which this week banned pocketbooks and bags from all its games in the name of “security,' a move largely in response to the Boston bombings. (Although, not surprisingly, it is selling its own NFL clear tote bag as an acceptable alternative.)
How many bombings have there been at NFL games? None. For that matter, how many terrorist bombings have there been in the nation during the Age of Fear (post 9/11)? One. And, no offense to the victims, that was amateur night.
So given the infinitesimally small probability that there will be any bombing, let alone one at an NFL game, why the overreaction?
Because that's the society in which we have chosen to live, naively believing that we can be “100 percent' safe.
Sure, most fans are upset at the NFL's new rule, but that ire will fade, stadiums will still be filled (with concession revenue way up), and we will accept yet another stupid regulation based on nothing but a myth, succumbing to fear once again. And every time we give in to fear, it becomes further embedded in the next generation as “normal.'
It's time to take the gloves off as to what is really behind the mass shootings in our country, since too many continue to blame extraneous things.
It's not guns — not “assault weapons,' magazine capacities or the availability of firearms, since all were more restricted at the time of the Columbine massacre, and less restricted before, when there were no such attacks. It's not violent video games and television, though these things don't help when coupled with complacent or out-to-lunch parents. And it's not because mental health has been hijacked by political correctness.
They are all Band-Aid solutions on a gaping wound.
As Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.' We are the problem.
We have warped a generation, producing manic children conditioned to fear everything — can't walk to the bus stop alone because you'll be kidnapped; can't ride a bike because you'll get hit by a car (despite a Kevlar helmet and 78 protective pads); can't play sports because you might get injured; can't play cops-and-robbers because you might become a mass murderer; can't settle your own disputes on the playground, so parents must pick their children's teams. Everything is so precisely planned and organized — what the hell is a “play date?' — by helicopter parents obsessively hovering over their children. The creativity and curiosity that comes with being a child has been erased, replaced with a structure so unnatural that social skills are nearly nonexistent.
But it doesn't stop there. We have ingrained such an irrational fear of suffering “hurt feelings' that many teachers don't grade tests (some would do better than others, so it's best to make everything equal and tell everyone “good job'), we don't keep score at sports games and league standings are often taken offline so as to not offend the last-place team. Everyone gets a trophy because we have mandated a homogenous society, and individual achievement is often frowned upon if not outright ridiculed.
We have attempted to whitewash all “bad things,' which, not that long ago, were known as something else: Valuable life lessons.
We have become so fearful of risk — God forbid someone might not succeed at something — that children don't know how to fail.
And when they don't learn how to fall down — an inescapable human trait, by the way — they don't know how to pick themselves up and try again. Instead, they are growing up in an artificial world of absolutes that we created — that everything must be 100 percent guaranteed safe.
We no longer encourage, let alone teach, entrepreneurship and self-reliance, having relegated “no risk, no reward' to the trash heap. The result? Many of today's job seekers, fearful of being on their own, go on interviews with their parents! Mom and Dad negotiate salaries, ask the questions, take over the process and ream out the hiring manager when Junior doesn't get the job to which they think he was entitled.
Many end up merely dysfunctional until the real world shatters the protective cocoon that has surrounded them for so long.
But for some — a small fraction, thankfully — they snap when something finally doesn't go their way. Someone doesn't like them, they get fired, a teacher or boss disciplines them, and they go on a rampage. They kill whatever is in their way, and, usually themselves, because of their complete inability to deal with Life.
Just a generation or two ago, children walked home from school, even at lunchtime. School doors were never locked. Fights in the schoolyard were quick, and the “combatants' were friends again 15 minutes later. Children played ghost-in-the-graveyard until they were called in, and all survived. Scoreboards weren't turned off in a rout, and losing teams always worked harder to get better, which served them well in school and, later, the workplace. And you know what? There were virtually no shootings, and no one lived in fear. Imagine that.
Since the nation's beginning, Americans' courage has been exceptional. Our Founding Fathers risked (and many lost) everything, when they could have done nothing and enjoyed the good life. Americans engaged themselves in ferocious wars to save the world from tyranny, yet never flinched. Civil rights leaders, at risk to life and limb, overcame unimaginable hurdles to achieve freedom and justice.
With such a legacy of success, why have we become so scared of our own shadow, impotent to build upon that history and forge ahead in arguably the most exciting time in human history?
The real world doesn't change — it has been and always will be filled with risk and danger. Managing those things without being a prisoner of fear is the only way for a nation, and a people, to prosper.
It's time for the helicopter parents to come in for a permanent landing, or soon we will all crash and burn.