Many, if not all, of history's greatest mistakes are grounded in fear. From World Wars, to civil unrest, to even domestic and educational policy, all of these decisions are grounded in fearful forethought -- that if we don't do something now, something bad will happen. To a certain point, this thoughtful anticipation is helpful. It's even constructive. But there is a fine line, over which we cross into a territory of fear mongering, prejudice, complacency, counterproductive generalization -- even racism, xenophobia, homophobia. It is what leads the average person to do and say unspeakable things.
For some, 2016 means being afraid of America losing its place as the world's leading superpower. They're terrified of America no longer being "great" -- no longer being "the best." For some, it's fear of fascism, promoting institutional racism, a widening class-divide, limiting individual voice. For others, it's the opposite: It's a fear of socialism, of a world where social equity may take away "my" American Dream, neglecting the fact that it's impossible for everyone to have their own American Dream without stepping on someone else's. For some, it's simply a fear that, within all this mess, it's going to be difficult to have a happy, present life. Regardless, what will unite us all in 2016 is one of our most primal and instinctual qualities -- fear.
And what will tear us apart is how we deal with it.
Baby Boomers will continue to monitor the money they've saved from a few economic booms; conservative Gen X-ers will continue to plan for retirement, finding the candidate that's going to help them realize their version of their own American Dream, meanwhile make America "great again;" the impoverished will advocate against gentrification for ways to raise living wages and conditions; middle- and upper-middle-class millennials will get married, have children and hang on to anything within arm's reach that will help them relive what it feels like to know that they're "special."
Ironically, it is this thing that unites us -- fear -- that causes a divide, engendering us to think only of ourselves. lt is where self-preservation stews and complacency brews, encouraging us to distance ourselves from the collective and our own empathic impulses, granting us the opportunity to fight -- or to fly away -- allowing only our tailwind to see what we've left behind.
So whose fear is warranted? Whose fear is of highest priority? Whose fear do we follow?
I don't know the answer, but I think we'll find out in 2016.