While I was in South America, people asked me about Donald Trump.
“We don’t understand,” they would say frantically. “Why are the American people interested in this madman? How can you explain it to us in a way that makes sense?”
One person, an Argentine, said Trump was like a monkey with a knife. I replied that we use a slightly different expression for that (and in my opinion, a more polite one) ~ the idiom “like a bull in a china shop.” Exchanges like that are one reason I love to travel.
The explanation I offered for Trump’s popularity is that the American people are scared: of ISIS, of the changing economy, and of changes being made to their country they feel are outside of their control, such as a recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Change is hard for most humans, and unpredictable change, like an unforseen act of terrorism, is particularly hard. But excessive fear? That is crazy-making.
If I had a magic wand and could change one thing about humankind, especially Americans, I would throttle back their level of fear. Sure, we need some fear, to protect us, but American fear is disproportionally high relative to the real risk. Excessive fear does not reduce risk, it increases it, by leading us to hazardous thinking. And right now, we need clear thinking more than ever.
Who are the most fearful?
Scratch the surface of any fundamentalist, religious, political, or otherwise, and you will find a very fearful person. Right-wing Christians are especially fearful, which is strange, because their Bible warns them against it.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Enough said on that.
As for my own fears, I have found most of them come to naught, as illustrated in this short poem called “The Sump Pump” that I wrote a few years ago about a real incident from my childhood. I hope its message works a tiny bit of magic on you today, helping you to be less fearful, and taking you further along the path to being “made perfect in love.”
The Sump Pump
I was five. Maybe six
The sump pump lived in the basement
A horned troll who would awaken suddenly
and without warning
pounce on little boys
carrying them down the drain
over which it had dominion
which was its lair.
My brothers took a length of rope
flaxen brown and frayed
and wrapped me with it
One held while the other tied
taut stripes burned into innocence
grill marks on a chicken breast.
They laid me like a mummy
next to the pump
laughed and ran away
My heart pounded
My breathing shallow
Too scared to cry
The pump ticked softly: The troll licking his chops
Considering his next victim
then coming alive with a ghoulish howl.
Next? A strange thing
When is it midnight?
When does night reach its apex and bow to day?
When does black absorbs its first drop of blue, becoming indigo on its way to rosy dawn?
There Wisdom called me
like Lazurus being called from the tomb.
I came to life
and stumbled towards light
that terrible cave with its monster
behind me now.
“Unwrap him,” She said
And then She blessed me
with a holy gift
this spark of truth:
Those things we fear most
often come to nothing.