Weaponized Fear


On the Sunday after the election, during the coffee hour following Mass at my Episcopal church, a parishioner went around the social hall doling out safety pins. Accompanying them were flyers telling us how comforted and loved we were supposed to feel, thanks to kind souls who — well, gave us safety pins and flyers. Just in case any of us somehow missed the point, he’d also tacked the flyers up in the hall, the narthex, and the parish house.

I declined to take one of his special safety pins. And, just because sometimes I’m ornery that way, I asked him exactly what it is we’re supposed to feel safe from. Perhaps appropriate for someone handing out safety pins, once used to fasten cloth diapers, he responded in baby-talk.

For all their supposed kindness, compassion, and moral superiority over the rest of us, the “progressives” of today are among the most hostile and aggressive people I have ever seen.

Though I tried to be polite, I’m fairly sure that my annoyance showed through. I am heartily sick of the crocodile tears of those who refuse to accept the election of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him, but he won — and I was brought up to believe that regardless of whether they like the outcomes, adults simply accept the results of lawful elections as matters of fact. What I have a hard time accepting is Hillary Clinton’s troopers bringing their petulant “not my president” nonsense into church.

The safety pin missionary smiled his kindly Christian smile. But his eyes glazed and his jaw clenched. He clearly wanted to sock me. I must admit that at that particular moment, I didn’t feel particularly safe. For all their supposed kindness, compassion, and moral superiority over the rest of us, the “progressives” of today are among the most hostile and aggressive people I have ever seen.

It wasn’t enough to foist his magical talismans off on us during coffee hour. In the middle of a meeting of the St. Anne’s Guild — an Episcopal women’s organization — he burst in to pass them around. When they came to me, I dropped them. I confess I can’t be sure it was entirely accidental.

Am I overreacting? Is there anything wrong, at heart, with this ministry of the diaper pin? There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to comfort fearful people. I suppose I’d find these admonitions not to be afraid more comforting — not to mention more convincing — if they weren’t coming from the very people turning a blind eye to mass tantrums that degenerate into riots. In an instant, this crowd can go from speaking pabulum words of peace to screaming through a bullhorn.

Fear is the weapon of tyrants. Statists are, at the very least, tyrants-in-training.

I’d be the last to deny that fear has reached pestilential levels in our society. We see it everywhere, and it motivates more of what we do than most of us would care to admit. When our “fear” button is pressed too often, and too hard, it gets stuck in the “on” position. And an overload of fear — especially during an extended period — goads us into rage. Rage is nothing more or less than weaponized fear.

Fear is the weapon of tyrants. Statists are, at the very least, tyrants-in-training. Donald Trump has poured his share of gasoline on the fire. Not so much in what he’s said, himself, but in the hordes of supporters who, throughout his campaign, he encouraged to be angry and little else. They were angry because they were afraid, and because they were so angry they’ve made many other people afraid.

This vicious cycle won’t be stopped by people who condemn fearmongering only in those with whom they disagree, while condoning it in their political allies. I believe that Trump supporters would have been equally quick to kick, scream, and turn blue if their candidate had lost the election. Those who behave that way are certainly very likely to be afraid. But they don’t hesitate to throw their rivals into the most ungodly terror they are capable of inspiring.

The safety-pin crusade was, in itself, an act of aggression. That it masqueraded as an attempt to be comforting fooled nobody who wasn’t willing to be fooled. It was infantile, as acts of aggression usually are. If protestors against our constitutionally stipulated political process continue to behave like irrational children, they will destroy this country. And any church that doesn’t stop this nonsense from happening in what its parishioners trust to be sacred space will eventually find its entire body of believers in diapers, and nothing in the collection plate but safety pins.

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Fun read. Thank you so much.

Scott Robinson

Dear Lori,

I think that the man with the pins was very distraught and needed others to cuddle him and make him feel better. That's why he was giving you diaper pins. They symbolize the babying of you, and by extension him.

You could have comforted him with the hymn, "Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me and I will give you strength."

Stay Strong,

Clinton Harris

I have also been troubled by the on-going agony of friends who seem to have completely lost touch with reality regarding the Trump election. Most people seem to handle the death of a loved one with less trauma. Of course, the waling and tears are frequently not genuine.

The glazed eyes and clenched jaw of your safety pin missionary reveal a darker emotion. His assumption that others shared his angst about the election was more than presumptuous. His "loving" act operated as a litmus for him to identify those who did not sufficiently demonstrate the required response to the election. It might be wise to be wary of this fellow and others who speak of love with clenched jaws.

Luther Jett

Lori, I think your fellow congregant has it all wrong. The safety pin meme grew out of a reaction to anti-immigrant aspects of BREXIT in the UK. It is supposed to convey strength, not fear, a way of signaling to the potentially oppressed that the wearer will defend their right to exist.

In this country, it is a reaction to the election of Donald Trump, who has promised to deport millions of men, women, and children who are in this country without papers. I don't actually see it catching on, and agree with you that what your fellow-congregant did sounds silly.

That said, I'm not a partisan of Ms. Clinton,yet I find myself entirely dismayed by the ascendency of Mr. Trump to the highest office of the land. This is a man who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. This is a man who demonstrates flagrant disregard, if not downright ignorance toward the Constitution. Am I really supposed to be okay with that?

Donald Trump fawns over foreign dictators like Vlad Putin. He is hardly a friend of liberty. Why should I remain silent?

Lori Heine

Luther, you and I are in agreement about The Donald. Though I saw Gary Johnson as a less than ideal candidate, I voted for him because I believe that he was clearly the best of the bunch.

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