Monday, November 14, 2016

Rational and Irrational Fears

Shortly after the 2008 election I wrote a note about my fears, and in 2014 I did a follow-up to see whether those fears had been realized. Many had.

The things I feared had to do with both government overreach and failure. Government’s proper role is to protect life, liberty, and property; stepping being its proper role brings about unintended negative consequences—usually exactly opposite of the claimed goal.

Overreach includes things like Obamacare, over-regulation of industry, and other economic interference that lead to high unemployment, high inflation, and low production—so, significantly less prosperity. And it includes interference with state’s rights—as in education, definition of marriage, and transgender bathrooms and locker rooms. It includes concerns about more liberal Supreme Court justices, who would disregard the meaning of the Constitution and invent laws from the bench. There’s concern about trampling the Bill of Rights: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, protection from illegal searches and seizures. All legitimate fears, it turned out.

Then there are government's failures to protect our sovereignty and safety. There’s our porous border, which allows in terrorists, drug traffickers, and human traffickers, in addition to the illegals simply seeking a better life, but who use our social systems, increasing our debt and lowering our standard of living. There is failure to fully support our military, weakening our power in the world and emboldening our enemies. ISIS grew out of the void of strength Obama caused. So, again, those were legitimate fears.

I didn’t anticipate the increase in racism—particularly racism of blacks against non-blacks. An honest history will show that the Obama presidency caused, rather than healed, racial division. And he increased various other forms of tribalism within our country.

So those are legitimate fears. And we had reason to fear ever increasing loss of freedom, prosperity, and civilization if people didn’t use an election to say, “Enough!”

There are also legitimate fears regarding a President Trump. And they are also related to either
The new reality, so at least make sure your
fears about it are rational.
Image found on Facebook, origin unknown
government’s overreach of or failure to perform its proper role of protecting life, liberty, and property.
We might be need to be on guard against too much authoritarianism. We’re glad he plans to do away with all of Obama’s illegal executive orders, but we’re still concerned that he might replace them with his own, rather than limiting lawmaking to the legislative branch.

We might be concerned that he’s still trying to buy positive attention, with things like paid childcare or parental leave, or leaving in place too much of Obamacare.

We might be concerned that his tendency to be thin-skinned will not work well on an international stage. But, seriously, I don’t fear that he will push the button for a nuclear attack on an enemy just because they disparage his personal appearance.

Nor do I think we need to worry about him rounding up those various tribes that voted against him: blacks, Hispanics, women, LGBTQ, or others. While I do think he’s personally immoral in his treatment of women, I don’t think he’s prejudiced against them in the business world, nor against any other tribal interest group based on something other than character—or, if not character, at least capability.

I think there are plenty of flaws in the new president, so there’s no need to invent or exaggerate imagined flaws like racism. I believe those are unjustified fears, fomented by the people who actually do focus on race, ethnicity, gender, or some other tribal characteristic.

Do women need to fear being deprived of birth control? Of course not. But I hope women will learn to see birth control not as a government responsibility, but a personal responsibility. Insisting that government pay for your birth control means you seriously don’t understand the concept of protecting life, liberty, and property.

Do Hispanics need to worry about being rounded up and deported? Of course not. The first priority will be to secure the border. Once that’s done, deporting the harmful aliens (or incarcerating them) will be a priority. And meanwhile we should be improving and streamlining the legal immigration process. Eventually, after all that is done, we can start having a reasonable conversation about how to deal with long-time illegals. But, by all means, if you’re an illegal who’s panicking about a mean President Trump, feel free to self-deport.

If you fear the world is ending because government might not force bakers to go against their religion to service a homosexual “wedding,” or because government might allow you to hear differing opinions on your school campus, or because government might not outlaw all jobs below $15 an hour—maybe you need to take a deep breath. I believe you feel these fears. But I can also see very clearly that they are irrational.

It isn’t rational to set up grief counseling on school campuses to deal with those distraught students who didn’t get their way in an election. If the election had gone the other way, and many of us would have had legitimate fears for the future of our country, it still wouldn’t be rational to set up grief counseling because of the outcome of an election. If you’re not adult enough to face disappointment (like we have faced under Obama this past near decade), then you’re not adult enough to be voting.
If you think it makes sense to go out and riot because your presidential candidate didn’t win, you’re not rational enough to be choosing our president.

The question, then, is: how do we best treat irrationality? That, in part, depends on whether there’s hope for improvement.

When we deal with irrationality in a child, it takes some patience. We don’t take a tantrum personally. We calmly keep the child from hurting himself or others. We might remove him from overstimulating inputs (like a store, or too much media, or too many loud and hyperactive friends). We might give him a time out and say, “You can come join us when you feel better and can handle yourself.” We might check to see whether there’s a physical need, like a good nap or a snack with protein in it.

If it’s a child, sometimes education and experience eventually lead them out of irrationality. That can take time, but it’s pretty effective.

If we’re dealing with grown-ups, it’s a little tougher. We want to be respectful. But, if there is hope for individuals to get over the irrationality, it might take the same cures as for a child: Don’t take it personally. Prevent them from hurting themselves or others. Deal with any actual needs. Guide them away from overstimulating media or friends who stir up their emotions. Give them a time out from attention for a while. And then, when they can handle themselves, let them rejoin civilization.

Maybe at some point they’ll notice that none of their irrational fears are actually happening. And maybe the new reality will be a lot better than that other world they used to live in. Those of us who have faced some pretty nasty rational fears are hoping for a better reality at last.

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