Fear

A few months ago I shared this story:

(In 2017) I met a well-educated middle-aged couple at a sushi bar. We had a good conversation. As they got up to leave the wife let it drop that they had retired early and had been careful with their money, but with the election of Donald Trump they decided to spend it all since the world was going to end thanks to Trump’s brinkmanship with North Korea.

A smart and successful couple was counting on North Korea to nuke Salem MA so it didn’t matter if they blew all their money.

I’m still dumbfounded. There have been times I have panicked over politics and catastrophized little things, but have I ever been that bad? I wonder if they have still been freaking these last three years or if at some point they snapped out of it.

A musician friend on facebook posts daily about Trump, varying between “we finally got the bastard!” to utter despair. Does he see the emotional hamster wheel he is on?

I understand not trusting the President, Trump’s manner does not inspire confidence, but Covid-19 aside things have been pretty good so long as you ignore the clown on TV. As for Covid-19, I think the generalized sense of fear has made it hard to engage in actual prudential measures: wearing masks and avoiding certain events might make sense in some circumstances but not in all the ones in which they are mandated. The social and economic costs have been largely ignored, surely those factor into prudential decisions.

That couple I met in the bar were just afraid, deeply afraid, and the fear needed an object. At the time it was North Koreans nuking Salem, later perhaps it was the non-threat of war with Iran, now perhaps they are hiding in their condo worrying about Covid-19.

A few months ago some very-online people were arguing whether fear of Covid-19 was unChristian: for some it was a chance to trot in theological arguments to justify their opinions about masks and social distancing, for others it was a chance to tease Christians for being “unscientific”. I ignored the argument.

Of course one needs to make prudent decisions about how to protect themselves and others when there is an infectious disease going about. Decent people with good intentions can disagree about what constitutes prudence, and sometimes one must suspend his private judgement and obey the indications of the authorities in these matters.

What is unChristian is this distorted, disembodied, obsessive spirit of fear. I can’t imagine it being driven by a healthy attachment to physical well-being.

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