Archives For fear

Free-Range Kids??

April 14, 2015 — 2 Comments

2015-03-30_08-52-18Peanut allergies are one of the most common forms of food allergy among American children. And the last two decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases. It’s estimated that today 2 percent of all children are allergic to peanuts, four times the number as recently as 1997. And it’s the leading cause of death from food allergies.

For parents, of course, a key question, how to avoid the risk to their children. And now comes a new twist. A study published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” it finds that exposing higher-risk infants to peanut products greatly reduced the risk of developing an allergy later on.

SOURCE:  Feeding infants peanuts could reverse dramatic allergy rise.

I think that when the first two decades of the 21st century goes down into the annals of American history it will be know as the “Age of Fear”. They will describe it as a time when we let fear drive us to a higher degree than any time before (and hopefully since).  Of course that probably started with 9/11. After all it was the first time that so many of our citizens were killed in a single day by someone from beyond our shores.

It seems kind of ironic that our fear that our children might be allergic to peanuts is the reason that so many of them are allergic to peanuts. I’m sure that I, like probably everyone in my generation, was given my first taste of peanut butter as an infant. And I’m  pretty sure that I loved it and ate many PB&J sandwiches before I reached puberty.

Is it now impossible for parents to raise “free-range” kids? Must we protect them from every possible danger out there? I was a free-range kid. I often spent my days roaming the neighborhood seeing what kind of trouble I could get into. :)  I can’t image kids being so sheltered today that they can’t do the same.  It is ironic that what we fear from peanuts we may actually make happen because of our fear.  That is kind of like those folks who refuse to get immunizations for their kids because they fear that it causes other problems.

Fear is a very powerful thing for many I guess.

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget.

As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

Fear is perhaps the most dominant emotion in our society today and it seems especially among white population in the southern States.  Everyone outside that area recognizes that the “red” States are for the most part very conservative, rural, and fundamentalist Christian. When I came across this article over at Red Letter Christians it got my attention because it was from a woman who I would guess is from the South. She seems to genuinely want to help all southerners realize that much of their fears are not from themselves but from the lessons they have learned from those who came before them. Here are some words from that article.

2015-01-23_11-12-45White friends in America’s Southland, we are living in a scary world. In any given month it seems there are fresh stories of black people marching in protest, Muslim terrorists attacking, non-English speakers crossing our borders. Anyone overhearing us can tell we are afraid – of being attacked, of being taken over, of losing the power that has always belonged to us white people…

Our fears are confirmed through the media we choose to follow. Most Southern white folk prefer conservative cable news, listen to conservative talk radio, and attend small Christian churches where the leaders get their fears from the same news channel and talk shows. All of this confirms our fears, and the religious component adds even more glue, cementing our fears into our view of God.

Why do these media outlets, talk show hosts, and certain renowned religious leaders confirm our fears? We Southern white people are such a large block of people that, as hard as it is for us to ever admit it, we are being manipulated and used by many of these entities. They are getting rich and powerful by feeding our fears, and they have all learned that our Christian religion is so important to most of us that all they have to do is throw God into their mix and we will follow them anywhere. What’s sad, but not new, is that many of us will perpetuate these fears even when we do not benefit from them.

As Christians we believe that God is far greater and far more complex than our finite human minds can begin to conceive. We also believe that God sent Jesus to model for us how we should live as human beings. Jesus did not live in the South, nor even in America, but in the Middle East where there were cultural taboos against interacting with Samaritans, touching lepers, talking to women . . . But Jesus broke the taboos. Jesus condemned the churchy people who were more interested in rules and laws than in human beings. He preached unity for all his followers, and reaching out in active love to all people. And humility.  Humility–the hard first step to allowing God to change our own stubborn and proud minds.

SOURCE: Dear White Christians: Let’s Talk About Our Fears | Kathy Vestal | Red Letter Christians.

2014-12-13_09-44-02This is terrorism’s sick genius. Terrorists invite us — seduce us — to share their Manichaean worldview, to respond to savagery with savagery, to join them in madness. “Make us safe!” Americans demanded. And so our elected leaders launched two wars, saw WMD where there were none, launched surveillance programs with virtually no limits, and embraced “enhanced interrogation.” As justification, the White House and the CIA joined Machiavelli, Marx, and Stalin in insisting that the end justifies the means. Lots of individuals bear responsibility for the horrors detailed in the Senate committee’s torture report. But if we are honest, that journey to the Dark Side was a collective failure — and sobering evidence of how fragile our principles really are.

SOURCE: How we went to the Dark Side – The Week.

These are very powerful words from William Falk over at The Week. Powerful words that I adamantly agree with!  Being a Star Wars fan I thoroughly appreciate the title of the article. It  seems as a country we have gone the route of Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker and our abject fear is the primary motivator. A fear that seems to drive so much in current-day America. A fear that is driving us away from long-held principles of morality.

Our obsession with fear is exactly what the terrorists want. They can spend a few bucks and maybe a martyr or two to force us to spend billions in order to keep an event from happening again. Our fear illogically causes us do things we know in our hearts is not what America is, or at least was.

The very idea of Guantanamo Bay Detention facility is against so many principles of our American system and yet it has survived two presidents and more than a decade of legislative bodies.  The logic goes that the people held there are terrorists and not American citizens so that is OK and since Guantanamo is not really American soil so we don’t have to live by our principles there.  But that does little to ameliorate the fact that we are ignoring our basic moral standards in the process. Our abject fear allow us to keep prisoners there without any charges or proof.  We simply fear them and that is enough. It has been found that many of the people have been held there  for over ten years were innocent of any of the accusations against them. Yeah some of them are bad guys but does that justify our imprisoning others who are not?

I realize that these events since 9/11 are not the first time we have allowed our fears to obliterate our principles but the magnitude of the reaction I believe is at the head of the class.  Those who study recent history ( I realize that “recent” is a relative term) know that we imprisoned  over 100,000 of our citizens simply because of the color or their skin and the slant of their eyes. They looked like the enemy and so they were to be feared. Japanese Americans suffered because of that fear.  And this was not the first time we let our fear overcome our principles.

This is not the first time we have moved to the dark side but it is probably our darkest episode. I just pray at eventually we will move back into the benevolent “force” that until recently has guided us so well…

2014-08-24_13-14-19The white majority in the U.S. will be outnumbered by Americans of other races by 2042, eight years sooner than previously projected by the Census Bureau.

SOURCE: U.S. White Population Will Be Minority by 2042, Government Says – Bloomberg.

The year 2042 strikes abject fear into some of us. Particularly those who are associated with groups with three letters in the title. That is the year that people of color will outnumber whites in the United States. Why is it that so many are so afraid of being a minority?

For twenty-five years now I have been in a pretty small minority. Only about 1% of the U.S. population is deaf and I am one of them. I go through months at a time without ever seeing another deaf person but I live with the consequences of being deaf every single day. Before I became a member of this somewhat exclusive minority I to had an abject fear of it. But it turns out that being a minority is not as bad as I imagined. It is not great but not totally bad either.

So, why do so many fear going from 51% to 49%? What is it about that number that get to us? Of course a big part of that is the perceived loss of power. They would no longer be masters of our own fate. It’s nice to be the guy in control of things. To turn that over in any degree is a scary thing. What if “they” decide to do it differently than I want?

But then again most of us are in a minority now in one regard or another. Being a progressive in Indiana puts me in a distinct minority. I loathe many of the things that my governor does; he just seems to be a guy without much compassion for others, especially those much different from him.  But my life for the most part goes on despite being a minority in several different areas. Sharing power is not at bad as many imagine.

We may come to the point where no political party will have a majority status and will therefore be forced to form a coalition government made up of different minorities. But then again that is pretty much what at least the Democratic party is now. There are those Democrats who want abortion on demand and those who would like to see it go away entirely. There are those who just want government out of their lives and then there are those who think government is shirking its responsibility of doing the people’s business.

All I can say to all those out there who are in abject fear of becoming a minority is that it is not as bad as you imagine. Spreading the power around is enabling, not disabling, as a country as well as on a personal level. Try it out , you might like it.

A Life Half Lived….

July 28, 2014

2014-05-08_08-01-53You want to be free. And as you start to feel that you are being corralled into a certain life, you kind of push against it. It may come out very strange, it may be interpreted wrong, but you’re trying to find out who you are.”….she lived with a deep fear of leading a “life half-lived.”

“I realized that very young — that a life where you don’t live to your full potential, or you don’t experiment, or you’re afraid, or you hesitate, or there are things you know you should do but you just don’t get around to them, is a life that I’d be miserable living, and the only way to feel that I’m on the right path is just to be true to myself, whatever that may be, and that tends to come with stepping out of something that’s maybe safe or traditional.”

SOURCE: Angelina Jolie Didn’t Think She’d Have Kids, Says Her 20s Were ‘Misinterpreted’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

Angelina Jolie has always fascinated me. She is such an assertive person and a contrarian to boot. I like that combination. She knows what she wants and she goes after it.  It takes a very strong person to “want it all” but she among few others seems to be almost able to accomplish that feat. Like everyone that I admire to any degree I’m sure there are things about her that if I knew them I would not like but that’s OK. None of us are perfect.

Do any of us lead a life more than half lived? With the wisdom I have gained from almost seven decades on this earth I seriously doubt that I have.  There were so many opportunities that I had that I passed up due to not wanting to get out of my box. Fear, or maybe just trepidation, held me back. I think I am pretty usual in that regard.

I fear that we are stifling those who have a full potential at a very young age now. I fear that we are denying ourselves the next Einstein, Madam Curie, Steve Jobs, or a myriad of other examples. From my study of Yin/Yang and American culture I have learned that one of the things that makes us stand out as a nation is our “can do” spirit.  We simply are not willing to accept our limits.  It seems that anyone of our kids who now steps out of the normal accepted bounds is quickly pushed back via drugs or verbal assault.

I wished I had had a deep fear of leading a life half-lived as Ms. Jolie has. It would have forced me to make other choices in my life. There are many things that I seem to be passionate about but few that I am actually willing to take the risk to achieve at any higher level. I haven’t given up in that regard but time is running out for me. Let’s make sure that those who are beginning their lives have the fear that Angelina has. It will make the world a better place if at least a few of us don’t accept a life half lived…