Fear. Can you feel it? Right there in the pit of your stomach. It's a gnawing, knotty presence that makes your pulse quicken and your mouth go dry. Fear has taken the nation hostage.
It's a collective anxiety rooted in 9/11 and fueled by years of war on two fronts. Add to that the collapse of many of the nation's biggest banks and two years of job losses, bankruptcies, home foreclosures and lack of health insurance. Mix with divisive politics driven by radio talk show hosts and special interests, and you have a recipe for a destructive us-vs.-them mentality.
Surveys show we have fears about national security, about job losses, about the American dream dying.
Tea partiers, health care reform opponents, the "party of no" -- all take their cues from a fear that remains deeply fixed in our stomachs and our psyches. When we live with a sense of loss -- or even perceived potential loss -- we retract, drawing in all our possessions, holding tightly for fear someone will take more. Fear fosters protectionism, demonization of others, jealousy and stinginess -- all emotions that stem from our baser natures.
(This is the first part of an opinion piece of mine that AOL News ran today. You can read the rest here. Thanks to Red Room's Ivory Madison for connecting me with the AOL folks and bringing more visitors to me and Red Room!)