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Monday, October 27, 2008

They Can’t Win . . . If We are Not Afraid

Ken Kerr Bio

In 1991, there was a movie starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep titled, Defending Your Life. It was a little two-star movie with a four-star theme.

Daniel Miller, played by Albert Brooks, dies in a car accident sent to Judgment City, a waiting area for the recently deceased of the United States. He, like everyone else is put on trial for "being afraid." Day after day goes by in a court room setting where he is made to watch himself controlled by fear, lacking courage, and making bad decisions as a result. In Judgment City, he meets and falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), a woman who lived a seemingly perfect life of courage and generosity, especially compared to his.

His fear caused him to lead a meaningless life. He is sentenced to be recycled back to earth to live another life time to see if, this time, he can overcome fear. Julia, having overcome fear, gets to move on.

That is where we are today. We, as a nation, are on trial to see if this year we will continue to let our fear control us. For the past eight years—who knows, maybe longer than that—we have been controlled by a government kept in power by keeping us afraid.

Our fears have caused us to make some very bad decisions—indefensible decisions. The War in Iraq, the election and re-election of Bush, the PATRIOT Act, domestic spying, refusing to talk to our enemies . . . you can probably add a few of your own.

For better or worse, fear is powerful and as basic to human survival as air and water.

There is a part of your brain, the stem, that exists solely for survival called the "reptilian" brain. This is the original part of the brain. As we evolved, our brains evolved, and other parts were added, for example, the limbic system which deals with emotions and the cerebellum which is the thinking part. This stem of the brain is securely protected by the rest of the brain. When all other parts of the brain are non-functional, this part will still be working, ensuring survival.

When our limbic system experiences the emotion of fear, the reptilian brain goes into action and the rest of the brain pretty much shuts down. While in the emotional state of fear, we have two choices and everything we do will be based on one of those choices: fight or flight. The body goes into survival mode. Everything becomes black or white, yes or no, good or evil, live or die.

In this fear state, human beings do not have the ability to think of alternative solutions, to behave rationally—only run or fight.

Our current government keeps us in a constant state of fear—Code Orange, take your shoes off at the airport, "real America." Now John McCain has only that one trick left in the bag—FEAR. We need to vote for McCain because Obama is (in hockey terms) just too doggone scary, doggonit!

What we need to fear is the erratic, questionable judgment of McCain and his hand-picked successor. We need only to look at the Republican rats deserting the SS McCain, their resumes flooding the mail rooms of the Fortune 500. They know there will be no jobs for them in the West Wing. They fear.

At the end of the Movie, Brook's Dan Miller character, seeing he would lose Julia forever, was able to overcome his fear, risked his own existence, and was released from the eternal cycle of fear-loss-rebirth-only-to-fear-again.

Let's be Dan this year. Let's find the courage to fight the fear, to overcome our reptilian origins and act like rational human beings. Let's imagine a world where there are alternatives, where it is not black and white, good and evil. Let's find the courage to find real solutions, not just make the best of a bad situation.

Let's vote hope—not fear.

The most famous "fear" quotation comes from Franklin D Roosevelt's inaugural address in 1933. We often repeat the sound bite, but we rarely hear it in context. And it is the context that is relevant to our time:

"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."

Think about that . . .Leadership in critical days.

On November 4Th, I am giving my reptilian brain the day off. My cerebral cortex will be casting my vote.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. The mavericks won't like that. How dare you put a quote in context. Only an anti-maverick would do that.

If you were truly above "fear" you would not feel restrained by a larger body of text or even intended meaning. You cerebral cortex using elitist.