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This past weekend one of the two major candidates running for President of the United States stopped at our local airport to make a 90 minute speech in which he warned a crowd of listeners there would be a “blood bath” if his major opponent were elected this November.    


Those of us who are aware that on January 6, 2021 there was indeed a “blood bath” inside our nation’s capitol building because this same candidate’s same opponent was elected that prior November may choose to fear a warning of this nature.   After all, past is prologue. Right?

I will choose not to fear such a warning.


Why not?


Because fear is an emotion we have based on our mind’s ability to assume that a past trauma will be repeated in the future.    While tempted to assume that the national trauma of 1/6/2021 will be repeated, I find no likely evidence that will happen.   By challenging my assumption that a past “blood bath” when that candidate’s opponent won means it will happen again, I have used my brain’s frontal lobe (rational capacity) to weigh in on my brain’s limbic system that lacks any rational capacity but instead assumes the worst case scenario just in case fight or flight becomes necessary for my own survival.    


In my rational brain, I understand the evidence to be that on 1/6/2021, a day in which a true “blood bath” did occur inside our nation’s capitol building, our current President was not in office and had no power or authority to command any armed forces to protect our Capitol.   The only President who had such authority to prevent such a “blood bath” was the candidate in question using these words in his campaign speech referenced at our airport.  The occasion of another bloody event of this nature would, per actual evidence, be most likely if that candidate were again in office and again lose an election and again have a Vice President who refused his order to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and forbid a peaceful transfer of power.   Given this level of evidence, my choice is not to fear that this candidate in question will lose and a blood bath then result. Evidence would instead support my assumption that if this candidate will again win office but be defeated in a future election, then a Jan. 6 trauma would be likely to re-occur to again prevent the peaceful transfer of power.  

So what’s my point?   What difference does all of this make?


I’ve been a citizen of this United States of America for going on 78 years.   I’ve been a psychotherapist for more than half of those years treating all levels of trauma and anxiety.   I’ve seen and heard a lot of fear stories in my time.   But I’ve never seen the level of severe panic-level fear like what is now happening to my fellow citizens in this particular election year.   Elections have been contentious for as long as I’ve been around.   We used to call it “mudslinging” and elections used to involve weeks or even a couple months of “attack ads” when fearful rhetoric was used to motivate voters.   Elections have perhaps always had their share of people who “voted their fears.”   And fears have always been based on a mix of different assumptions, some tested by evidence and some not.   


My concern is that today’s level of fear may be severely intensified because assumptions have become harder to challenge than ever before.  Testing for evidence nowadays can require tracing social media posts for Ai generated lies and disinformation.  Candidate websites can post anything they choose.   Candidate “stump speeches” and media ads can threaten anything they choose.   They can photoshop their opponents or use voice overs.               

 It was U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt who, in actual fact, did warn that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”   The context of those remarks involved our nation’s then precarious economic situation.  Today we are in a precarious political situation.   Then the fear involved those running for public banks to withdraw their deposits.   Now the fear involves those running for public office to withdraw our peaceful transfer of power.  


So is fear a choice?  And, if so, should we choose to fear anything other than fear itself?


My own answer would be “yes” and “yes.”   We fear based on assumptions that are inevitable given our past history of painful trauma.   We choose whether to act on assumptions that we’ve tested for evidence or to do so with little or no evidence even considered. If enough folks go to the polls this Fall voting for those fears supported by truthful evidence, then I will choose to have no fear of our electoral outcome.     


Fear is always a choice.  And, hopefully, we will choose our fears wisely as Americans in 2024.         


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