What scares you the most? The illness or death of a loved one? Being robbed at gunpoint? Suddenly being without financial means to live? According to the Chapman University survey of American fears, all those fears are among the top 10 things we fear the most, but they are not THE top ones. According to the survey, fear of a terrorist attack is second only to “corrupt government” as the thing we fear the most.
We fear a terrorist attack so much, in fact, that 1 of 3 Americans surveyed say it’s OK to give up some of our liberties to combat terrorism.
Pulling the string on terrorism, the survey found that at the root of that fear is a distrust of Muslims—44% of us distrust Muslims, even though they make up less than 1% of the population. And 100% of that 44% say they distrust Muslims because “they don’t know them.”
This fear of Muslims is so profound that many Americans are OK with institutional discrimination based on religion, to wit: 60% want more screening at airports for Muslims, 33% advocate more police presence in Muslim neighborhoods, and 38% are very OK with ceasing Muslim immigration altogether.
Additionally, you’re more likely to distrust Muslims if you’re white, male, older and didn’t attend college. Well, that makes sense: people are afraid of what they don’t know, and it’s likely that these are the people least likely to meet a Muslim in their daily life.
Factually, far less than half the terrorist attacks in the past 50 years have come from people who’ve called themselves Muslim (though it’s dubious the Muslim faith itself would identify them as such).
In truth, you have FAR more reason to be terrified of death by carpool. The odds are way higher that you’ll be a carpool fatality than a terrorist attack. Yet we are reluctant to begin a conversation with our elected representatives about deporting carpool drivers, nor have I seen any protests, sit-ins or editorials about this horrific societal scourge: carpooling.
Why? Because we know carpooling. We are comfortable with carpooling. So we feel warm and fuzzy about carpooling. Not so much Muslims.
“What you don’t know can hurt you” is the operating datum.
A friend of mine, a Jew, ran into this phenomenon concerning her faith her first year at the University of Wisconsin. Her new roommate had never seen a Jew before and was curious as to why she didn’t have horns.
“What you don’t know can hurt you” is the operating datum. Unfortunately, even though the obvious solution is to simply learn more about that which one is ignorant, many choose instead to loathe, abhor, suspect and ultimately attack that which they don’t know.
Famed Canadian songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen was raised a practicing Jew and Sabbath observer, and remained so throughout his life. A spiritually inclined artist whose faith and aesthetic inspired millions, he was determined to learn as much as he could about not just his own, but all faiths. So, not surprisingly, in the fullness of time, he became an ordained Buddhist monk and made a serious study of the teachings of, among others, L. Ron Hubbard and Jesus Christ. Toward the end of his life he remarked, “I’ve never met a religion I didn’t like.”
Imagine if we all followed Leonard Cohen’s example and embraced learning and love, while rejecting ignorance and hate. There would be nothing to fear but fear itself.
And carpools, of course.