I was only five when 9/11 occurred; we were young, children, and we didn’t really understand what was going on. Next we dealt with the wars, and those we didn’t understand either. Now, we deal with fear of terrorist attacks, fear of going out to party, fear of being killed.
Just a few weeks ago, a man shot and killed many people at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. America responded immediately: politicians began to use it to further their careers, some used it to persecute a religion, others used it to persecute gays. More important than all of those, some were sincere in their grief.
I don’t know any of those killed in the shooting. I never met them, never knew them, never even heard of them. Still, my heart is broken. I feel pain, not as much as I would if I had been personally affected, but enough to affect my mood, enough to sympathize with those affected.
But I am not here to talk about my pain, not here to accuse a religion, not here to rant about intolerance; I’m here to talk about how fear cannot hold us back. My friends and I have had conversations about how our generation has responded to our upbringing.
We are told to be afraid. We are told that the world is a dangerous place, that many people in the world are out to get us.
I would like to say we aren’t afraid. We are, though.
Just the other week I went to go see The Jungle Book in my local theater. About five minutes before the movie was over a couple came in and sat in the very back row—six seats to my left. Both of them looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties, both were Caucasian, and both looked completely normal, harmless. Nevertheless, my stomach clenched, my heart sped up, and I immediately assumed something bad was going to happen.
My brain did not let me think rationally. I began to plan my escape. I was the closest to them, if they had started shooting I would have died. I knew that. I thought, “Will I have enough time to text my mom?” I looked at my two friends on my right and thought, “Will they die too?” I wondered if we should leave early. I wanted out. I couldn’t concentrate on the end of the movie because I was so focused on that feeling in my chest: FEAR.
Nothing happened. The movie ended, and I walked out with my friends. As soon as we got outside I wanted to ask my friends if they were afraid too. I have always been a tad dramatic, and I figured I was overreacting. Before I could say anything my friend turned to me, “Did you find those people a little odd?” I told him how I felt, that I had been terrified of something bad happened, and he explained that he had the same thought. It was an immediate reaction. We just assumed that anyone who did something out of the ordinary was out to get us. Never mind the fact that we were at a kid’s movie in a small town at 6:00 in the evening. Never mind that nothing had happened there before.
So, yes, we are afraid. Our childhood has stayed with us. The world has proven our parents right. There are people out to get us. We don’t feel safe.
And, yet, for the most part, we travel places our parents would never dream of. We accept people, regardless of their sexuality or their religion. We promote love, togetherness, and we want peace.
We accept our fear, but we rationalize it. We may be afraid, but we don’t let our fear cause hatred. We choose to understand, not persecute.
According to Pew Research we are on track to being the most educated generation in American history. According to Huffington Post 61% of us feel like we are personally responsible for making the world a better place.
The point is, we are afraid.
The point is, we won’t let it stop us.