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The only thing fear has to fear

| Monday, October 5, 2020

I am excited for the future. I am hopeful for the future. Yes, you read that right. No, that wasn’t sarcasm. “In the middle of this pandemic? In this job market? After that debate?” you might ask. I know everyone is telling us that we’re doomed right now — personally, nationally and globally. After all, it is *sigh* 2020, the worst year ever. It feels as though everything we could have imagined and even things we never imagined have gone wrong recently — so, we should hang our heads in despair and collapse to the ground, overtaken by doom. I reject this outlook.

The good thing about being in a bad position is that there is a lot of room for improvement. It’s like when you bomb a test but get a burst of motivation to redeem yourself on the next one. The test is finished, the bad grade set in stone. All you can do now is set your sights on a better showing next time. You hit the books and review your mistakes in office hours, and having done so poorly the first time, you’ll almost surely do better the next time around. With the comfort that you can’t fall back much farther, you go forward confidently.

When you feel things can’t get much worse, remember that they can get better. When everything around you seems wrong and bad, it creates space to celebrate what’s right and good and to be aware of improving circumstances. Right now, we’re keenly conscious of all kinds of problems in our world, from the planet Earth itself to our individual households. Yet this awareness also allows us to recognize our triumphs, no matter how small, as we confront these troubles.

I urge you to look beyond the gloom that surrounds us today and imagine better days ahead. Will them into existence. The problems we are facing will not be solved overnight. There won’t be a specific day in the future when all is magically right in the world — when COVID-19 is eliminated, climate change halted, racism eradicated and our country is flourishing. These things will take time. Even when we defeat the difficulties that weigh so heavily on us now, I’m sure other challenges await us. Still, I urge you to think about how good it will feel when we get to crowd the stands of our favorite sporting events and concerts and have huge family gatherings at our dining room tables again. Think about how satisfied we will be when everyone feels respected and safe in America, when our environment is healthy and when we are proud of our leaders.

Many of us are voting in our first presidential election this year and are — to put it kindly — underwhelmed by our two choices. Throughout the country, though many have a preference, most people seem to be disappointed by the prospect of either candidate. Some people see this election as our last defense against the deterioration of our nation: a fight for the soul of America, for the salvation of our democracy and for the preservation of our lives. Others say the deterioration is already underway and that our country is doomed no matter which candidate prevails. I have struggled to make sense of what this election will mean for us, but one thing I have concluded is that whoever tried to convince us that our lives and fates lie in the hands of two seventy-something-year-old men is wrong.

Government and politics aren’t everything. As a student of political science and as someone aware that politics touches every aspect of our lives, I have spent the past few years proclaiming precisely the opposite. Politics is immensely important, and the government has great power to either help or harm people — both of which it has done throughout history. But we are not defined by our government. We are people beyond it, above the fray. Our country is not just our president, our Congress or our Court. It is all of us. And even when the government fails us or disappoints us, we are still people, and we will live the best lives we can.

To the person who asks how we can possibly carry on after this year full of political turmoil, I answer that we will go on because we are bigger than our government. We have thoughts, joys, relationships and ideas that do not depend on who sits in the Oval Office, and we will continue to have these things regardless of who our leaders are. Yes, they are supposed to represent us. But if they do not, we are still ourselves. In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a memoir of his experience at Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” I encourage you to choose an attitude of hope in an environment that is promoting despair.

Nowadays, everyone asks us if we are registered to vote or what our fears and concerns are for the future. But no one asks us what our dreams, aspirations and joys are — so I will. What inspires you today? What are your dreams for tomorrow? For next year? A decade from now? What excites you? What do you look forward to? What is something you want to learn how to do? People constantly convince us that we should be full of fear right now. Don’t get me wrong — there are many things we should indeed fear at this moment. But more than fear, I dare you to be full of the only thing fear has to fear: hope. When you feel surrounded by darkness, look for spots of brightness around you, and you will see them like stars in the night sky. You might even begin to notice constellations, showing you that the bright spots are not isolated, but part of a bigger picture. And eventually, when the night passes, you will see the morning sun.

Eva Analitis is a junior in Lyons Hall majoring in political science and pre-health. If you see her around campus, don’t be afraid to whisk her off for an impromptu philosophical discussion. Otherwise, you can reach her at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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