Fearful Lessons

Fear is a flexible emotion. Fear can be firmly fixed on the prospect of a future ill, or it can be directed toward a tangible danger. Three recent news articles put these two types of fear in the proper perspective.

Two weeks ago Wired presented a piece that mulled over new research about how potential voters react to search engine rankings. As it turns out, search engine results can influence voters. Science fiction aside, it is quite unfortunate, perhaps even damning, that voters are so easily swayed by information they stumble across on the Internet. Dissimilarly, a few days ago the Daily Mail posted an article about the genocide in the Ukraine during World War II (warning, graphic content). A handful of the associated photos show fearful human beings being humiliated and beaten. Over a million Jews were eventually killed in the Ukraine, mainly because of their ethnicity.

Most inhabitants of developed countries are fortunate – they cannot fully grasp the primal fear faced by hated peoples throughout history. First-world fears such as car payments, future earnings, a prosperous retirement, and digitally manipulated elections barely register as legitimate fears in many other places and times. Perspective is everything. History teaches us horrifying lessons, and current world events bring these lessons to mind once again.

Three quarters of a century ago Nazis were a deadly disease, and peaceful nations hoped the palatable elixir of tough talk and compromise would provide a cure. They were wrong. Today ISIS is the disease; there is no magic elixir. ISIS must be confronted economically, ideologically, religiously, and militarily. Confrontation should not included US ground troops overrunning the Middle East – that would be extremely unwise. However, the US should resolutely back a broad coalition of anti-ISIS groups in the Middle East – arms, munitions, logistics, non-military supplies, and air support are all reasonable. If the United States fails to remember the lessons of history, ISIS will continue to gain strength and the kingdom of suffering and primal fear will expand.

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