By Geila Rajaee
I don’t know about you but I find watching the news terrifying most of the time. The stories highlighted are those that often shout that the world is a terrible, awful place and I should lock my doors and avoid my neighbors. It reminds me that living is a terribly dangerous activity and everyone and everything around me is a potential threat.
And in some ways, they are right. But they are also utterly and completely wrong.
The media spin machine is just that – a machine that spins. It spins plain lies, hazy lies, outlandish lies, true lies, and lies that are steeped just long enough in the truth that they can deceive even the most savvy of thinkers. It spins us around until we become disoriented and start looking at our neighbor with a long side eye glance.
And when I say neighbor, I should be clear that I don’t just mean the people who live next door to you or in the same apartment building or homeowner’s association. I mean all of the people in the world that God invites us to know, love, and serve. They can be Black, Korean, Salvadoran, Iraqi, or Swedish. They can be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or Hindu. They can be female, male, or transgender. A neighbor is a neighbor that God calls us to know, love and serve.
But that isn’t exactly what the media tells us, is it?
The media tells us that we should fear the bodies of people of color. It whispers to us that “those people” trying to rent the place next door from Syria could be out to get us. Or that broadening the definition of marriage will some how change the sanctity of it. It says, “be afraid… it is coming” and changes the boogeyman’s face every day, every hour, every minute.
Fear is murmured into our hearts every day and alters the shape of it. And that makes sense because being afraid does change us, it does alter our thinking, and ultimately, it wins our votes. I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this election cycle and the ways that it is changing the United States and world in new and, frankly, terrifying ways.
By now each of us have heard of the threat that ISIS/ISIL plays in the world. And I agree, the actions of this group are heinous and terrifying to say the least. And although they claim ties to Islam, I would say they have veered far from the path devotion and submission to Allah and the prophet Muhammad PBUH. We, the citizens of the world, are afraid of ISIS and the blatant disregard for life.
Now, I should add that we may need to acknowledge our fear but we don’t necessarily have to give into it. Still today, Syrians are seeking refugee all over the globe. People of ages, abilities, and gender have risked their lives to flee violence. Hundreds have died simply trying to escape and more are still at risk in refugee camps. These individuals are seeking a new home, a stable life, and, perhaps, some neighbors to share a meal.
In the United States the response has been less than warm to these refugees. In fact, some states have gone so far as to make their states borders ‘closed’ to any refugees. Where Christ calls us to invite in the stranger, to feed them, give them drink, and give them shelter… we have either averted our eyes in cowardice or, more shamefully, stared back and just said, “no.”
Or, in the case of the visa waiver program, some United States Citizens (like myself) now have a passport that doesn’t function the same as the people in my apartment building. Why? Because having a parent born in one of the specific countries named in the law requires a visa to enter the US – a law that, sources say, will be reciprocated in the European Union come April. Our lawmakers voted to make some United States Citizens passports function differently than the majority of the country.
Sometimes we are making the vote and sometimes our elected officials are… but in either case, fear shouldn’t win. Fear doesn’t create good policies, fair policies, or just policies. It changes, not only the shape of our nation/s, but also the shape of our hearts. Our minds and hearts should not be shaped by fear but the transforming nature of God’s love for us. Imagine, if only we could reach out to our neighbor with love, no fear, as servants of what is good, what is holy, and what is just?
It’s from that place that I want to vote from and fear has no place it in.