October 09, 2008


Last May, we purchased Disneyland annual passports for our family. At first, having just moved to southern California and excited about spending time at the "happiest place on earth," we went almost every week. Now, we go about once or twice a month.

For the boys, it's been fun to watch them work up the courage to try new rides. First it was the Matterhorn, then Big Thunder. Splash Mountain and the Indiana Jones Adventure came next. Finally, it was the scariest, most thrilling of them all: Space Mountain. One ride was all it took--now it's a must-do everytime we go.

For some strange reason, people like to be scared. Halloween is just around the corner, and teenagers (and others) are flocking to community haunted houses all over the country. They're paying money to be frightened, to scream, to face their fears. (And, as a disclaimer, I'll point out that for two successive Halloweens when I was in college, I was a monster in some of those haunted houses, and then, in the third year, was hired to run around the streets Knott's Scary Farm's Ghost Town, scaring people.)

Now, there is a new phenomenon taking place that fits right in with this season of scary delights. We are being told how "dangerous" certain political candidates are, usually by the candidates opposing them. The current presidential campaign has become a campaign of fear, rather than a discussion of the issues. "He's too dangerous! He's too radical! And just how much do you really know about him, anyway?" Muhahaha!

Overcoming one's fear in order to ride Space Mountain is one thing. It's fun, and even healthy, since you are, in fact, overcoming your fear. But making people afraid for your own political gain is not healthy. We're already a paranoid nation. We don't let our children play outside. We think that every bad thing that is presented on the six o-clock news is going to happen to us next. Are these fears really rational or justified? Or are we allowing the media and other influential sources to use these fears to manipulate us to their own ends?

A recent comment on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle illustrates my point. The comment is in response to this week's rock slides in Yosemite (h/t to Two-Heel Drive):

Falling rocks in Yosemite? First thing, everybody must wear hardhats from now
on. Second, we need to form a committee to explore the options for anti-rock
falling barricades to be constructed throughout the park. Finally, we shouldn’t
rule out the possibility that this was a terrorist attack and we need to be
afraid, very very afraid. In fact, it might have been the work of one of Obama’s
pals. I think he visited the park once when he was eight and may have laid the
groundwork for this reprehensible act.

I've been asked to share a reading from my faith tradition at an interfaith prayer service that is taking place in my community next week. I think I'll share a reading from 1 John:

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in
them....There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has
to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love....

Now, if everyone was forced to take a ride on Heimlich's "Chew-Chew Train"--that would be something to fear!

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