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Chris Rock had a great riff in one of his early stand up comedy routines which basically said how he was scared to death of white teenage boys. This was the time around the Columbine shootings and the joke was funny because it played off of a contradicting mainstream American fear of grown black males, a demographic of which Chris Rock is of course a member.
For better or for worse (neither I guess) we have witnessed a leveling of the American fear field as predicted by Mr. Rock. The bread and butter American fears of people of color and of different faiths have been complicated by recent events. The Jewish community experienced violence threatened and actualized by extremists from across the rainbow of color and religion first at the Synagogue in the Bronx followed by the Holocaust Museum in DC. In between we have a Christian doctor gunned down in church by an anti-abortion Christian extremist.
There is a fearful current in America that is beginning to violently surface. Fox News analyst Shep Smith spoke about his experience of this anger:
“…in the wake of today’s shooting at the Holocaust Museum, Smith went on the air today to talk about the emails he’s been receiving for “the past few months,” and how they’ve been getting “more and more frightening.”
SMITH: There are people now, who are way out there on a limb. And I think they’re just out there on a limb with the email they send us. Because I read it, and they are out there. I mean, out there in a scary place…I could read a hundred of them like this…I mean from today. People who are so amped up and so angry for reasons that are absolutely wrong, ridiculous, preposterous.”
He went on to read an email, filled with the usual paranoid “birther” nonsense, which included an admonishment to Smith. “This is, I promise, a representative sample of the kind of things that we get here,” Smith said.
Much of the anger that Smith is talking about is coming from those who feel disempowered and fearful under the Obama administration. Fears about his supposed racisim and socialism are fueled on the internet and by some unfortunate pundits and politicians. Where there is frustration and a sense of powerlessness there is also a tendency towards violence.
America’s new awareness of the truth that violence can and has come from any group at any time demands our response. No single group can look at another and say the problem is them, because every demographic has its own extremists It forces each of us to take responsibility for maintaining and lifting others to a higher ground within whatever racial or religious identity we hold. When we encounter extremists within our own community we have the duty to disabuse them of their disturbed fantasies, and when they are threatening violence we should contact the police.
Being equal in fear is not a religious or American goal, instead it is to be equal in justice and respect. Its up to us.