Because I spend a lot of time below ground, the raw marks of geology are a regular part of my life. When I think of bedrock and mountains, I don’t think of them as solid things. They shift uneasily in my mind, and their brittle skins are not enough to disguise restless history. People who live near fault lines or volcanoes remember this; the rest of us generally forget it.
I think the structures of a society are very similar. The slow violence of geology and the slow violence of society are both ever ongoing.
My smart conservative friends care a great deal about the 2nd amendment, and my smart liberal friends care a great deal about the 4th. Yet both seem intent on limiting the other, and I was recently struck by the idea that the arguments about both amendments are the same. Both, I think, are about the cost of freedom.
Even for my smart conservative friends, the idea of some basic regulations of the 2nd amendment is tolerable. Overall, though, they would prefer a government that treats ownership of weapons as a necessary liberty to be protected even at cost. The fact that we have mass shootings is the price of that freedom, but they hold the freedom essential even at the cost of lives.
The first effect of fear is to sharpen our self-preservation and to enhance our awareness of danger. Those instincts are useful, but hyperbolic—they claim the unfamiliar is more dangerous than it is, and the familiar more benign than we should reasonably presume.
The second effect of fear is that we act, but the choice of action depends on whether we use our fear as an impetus or as a caution.
There are a lot of people consumed by their fear. It’s okay to be afraid, and it’s even okay to be overwhelmed by it. But it is not okay to use your fear to justify prejudice and xenophobia. And it really is not okay to deny your unthinking fearfulness and spin it as a virtue.
Have you ever been angry about something, and then caught a glimpse of your reflection? Have you ever recoiled, or started, or jumped at seeing the thing you felt so deeply reflected back at you?
For me, the reflection sets me on parallel tracks. A part of me, the angry part, carries on with fervor and fury and more impetus than sense. Another part of me is unsettled, disturbed, trying to step away. As the two tracks diverge, I feel the disconnect more powerfully. Anger begins to feel like theater. I very much want to be on one track only, and I very much prefer that it be thoughtful and careful. Yet the part of me that is running out that other track carries on regardless, and I wonder whether it will carry on forever.
This is how I feel about the Western world, especially right now.