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Election from hell

During the midst of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), in his first inaugural address told the nation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In less than 10 years this nation, under FDR’s leadership along with other world leaders, would be tested to fear’s darkest limits.

During the early phase of the pandemic, I listened to a pastor’s sermon about fear and some of fear’s consequences. Some churchgoers might now be fearful, while the non-churched might be aghast.

The pastor spoke of the idea that fear loves company, so we tend to seek out others with whom we’re willing to share our mutual fears. When fearful people gather in significant numbers and begin to feed off of that energy, we’ve now created a “fear zone.”

The pastor spoke of four fears to get his point across: Fear of failure; fear of rejection; fear of loss and fear of the unknown.

Symptoms exhibited by the fearful vary from a feeling of helplessness and withdrawal, to anger and open hostility toward others. Those who withdraw are sometimes more of a danger to themselves, while hostile individuals may be more of a danger to others.

Another symptom of those who are fearful and then angry is a loss of intelligence, according to the pastor’s sermon. He talked about studies done to correlate the loss of cognitive abilities with the rise in some individuals’ anger. The act of “blind rage” is sometimes used in an insanity defense to mitigate the severity of a crime in the eyes of the judicial system.

Through the first half of 2020 our nation’s unresolved dilemmas are compounding uncertainty, mistrust and growing fears among the general population. Playing on those emotions, angry people sometimes unleash the three-headed nemesis we call “shoulda, coulda and woulda” against decision makers.

Constructive criticism is a good thing, but using the three-headed beast for a personal vendetta can compound the problem. Calling media reports fake or biased news has become a way for those on either side of the political divide to neutralize the legitimate press among their base and silence their foes.

Since our presidential candidates tell us they will solve our problems and fears, with presidential directives if necessary, I’ll start with the presidential election.

Personally, I’m already weary of political ads financed by different and mysterious political action committees (PACs), bombarding my evenings with doom and gloom. I might even go so far as to say I’m getting angry with those on the left and the right who feed people’s fears but don’t fix our problems.

Let’s be clear about this: The “shoulda, coulda and woulda” beast stalks both trenches of the political divide in the epic battle of gridlock.

With political campaigns exploiting our fears as fuel to stoke the fires among their political base, and more importantly, those who are in the middle ground.

But in a nation so bitterly divided by so many issues, are there any solutions that are best or even acceptable for the whole nation? Hmmm…

1. How do we suddenly turn off the switch after an intense political campaign that surely is demonizing each opponent and feeding people’s fears?

2. Will people riot again as in 2016 over the results of the election, and how will news outlets treat the rioters?

3. Will major news outlets chastise one side of the political divide for their behavior, but give the other side a slap on the wrist if law and order breaks down?

4. Is the phrase “no one is above the law” to be used now as a political weapon and to be applied as “shall be” or “may be” when the situations suits?

A current Trump campaign features an ad showing the dangers of society’s spiral into chaos.

Using a message of fear, the ad suggests that a Biden administration would allow chaos to go unchecked and ultimately lead to collapse of our culture and security.

Using our checklist of fears, it wouldn’t be hard to see how many citizens would be adversely affected.

A Biden campaign ad features news clips showing effects of the nation’s current pandemic and President Trump’s controversial responses. Using our checklist of fears, we will again see how many citizens can be and have been adversely affected.

How much truth is in these ads?

It depends on how much partisan propaganda you believe and your loyalty to the left or right side of the political divide.

Some opinion polls now show that an increasing number of Americans are tired of President Trump’s style of in your face leadership. Trump tends to be obnoxious, exaggerates and is self-centered, while reminding some of us of the schoolyard bully of our childhood.

Candidate Joe Biden is attempting to take the high road in some of his ads and create a persona of someone who all Americans can embrace as president.

I’m reminded of an event from Homer’s Odyssey about the Trojan Horse, a gift from the Greeks to the City of Troy. A Trojan priest named Laocoon suspects a Greek plot and tells others, “I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts.”

Which tells me that, in politics, we should not only fear the “fears” that drive political engines, but also fear “solutions” that are based on political deception as candidates try to gain popularity among voters.

Hmmm … Come January, a president will be given the Oath of Office for the next four years.

We will be told about the great things to come and solving problems that drive our fears. For those on one side of the political divide, certain “solutions” might be featured as a “New Deal,” while those on the losing side will call them a “Raw Deal.”

So put aside your fears, calm down and try thinking more clearly as you approach voting for either the devil many know or the devil hidden in “solutions.”

All this will make for one hell of an election, not to mention post-election attempt at unification.

Ralph Dotterer Jr. is a lifelong Nittany Valley farmer, a hayseed philosopher and barnyard artist whose roots in the same soil go back almost 200 years.

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