I don’t remember the first time I felt the fear. I can only assume it’s been something quietly growing inside of me since I was in middle school. It was then that an attack happened on American soil. Suddenly, words like terrorism became part of the everyday.

This is not a new story by any means; we all know it. I only assume that was when the fear started, but I didn’t recognize it.

I do however remember exactly when it hit me so hard that I felt like I had been slapped across the face. A friend from my hometown and I had been spending an afternoon together. We were walking around the mall, and saw a Muslim family enjoying the afternoon much like we were.

“It’s just awful!” he said.

“What is?” I asked.

“That we are being overrun like this. Its terrible.”

“Overrun by what?”


I suppose it was the “fear of fear itself” that we were
warned about so long ago by President Roosevelt.

I was stunned. Here was a person with whom I had gone to school, traveled, and attended church. Someone with whom I had discussed the values of acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and love. He was suddenly changed in my eyes, and I simply felt the kind of heartache that leads to nausea . And I was afraid. I was afraid of the fear in him that had turned into hate.

I didn’t know what to do but remind him of who he was and what his faith meant, that he believed in. I tried to relay to him the stories I had heard, stories of the horrors many Muslims have come here to escape. I tried to remind him of the fact that there really is no “us and them.” There are only fellow human beings who essentially are the same; good people who have faced awful things, who have seen the destruction of their homes, the loss of family and friends, and relocation. These are people who have escaped only to find that they must live with a fear of hatred from others.

I didn’t do much beyond that, I’m sorry to admit. I went back to my day to day. However, I was now aware of this fear. I suppose it was the “fear of fear itself” that we were warned about so long ago by President Roosevelt. (The technical name for this, google has recently taught me, is phobophobia.)

These are the words of extremists – and it makes me afraid.

As the year has progressed, things have intensified or maybe I am just paying better attention. Stories have been reaching me now about Middle Eastern dignitaries in traditional garb being harassed on the streets of Minneapolis, videos of “terrorist pranks” going viral, the racist comments and agendas by those who wish to lead our country…I feel sicker and sicker with each one. My breaking point came while listening to a news story about the increase of anti-islamist speakers in small northern Minnesotan towns. I felt sick to learn that my fellow Christians were asking these speakers to come and address the congregations. Speakers carrying a message that those of the Islamic faith were invaders and this was war. That Minneapolis and St. Paul were lost because of their diversity.

I broke down in my car that day.

Those words go against everything the United States claims stands for. Those words go against everything Christ ever stood for. These are the words of extremists; these words are the starting point of violence. And it makes me afraid. All this rhetoric can do is create an even larger dividing line and turn even more good people against each other. Turn fellow human beings with all the same hopes and dreams and fears against each other. It can only increase the violence. We are not beyond experiencing the horrors being faced by those in other countries across the world, and if we don’t do something to stop the hatred, those horrors that so many here could never imagine experiencing and so many here have fled from…they could be our reality.

The only thing we can do to change this is to come together. Be one community. Celebrate our differences. Learn about each others views and experiences. Find the humanity in each other. Be friends and not enemies.