The Old Guy: When it comes to online rumors, the enemy is fear

I make it a point not to unfriend people on Facebook that disagree with my political views. After all, they are just that: views, opinions. Everybody’s got one (or 12). Mine are as valid to me as theirs are to them. I try to respect that.

So, imagine my shock and horror when someone I’ve known since I was in my 20s posted “Handgun or shotgun?”

At first, I thought he was joking. It was hard to tell. Then, some people started weighing in on the differences and what kind of handgun they prefer for self-protection. The [expletive] got real.

I read some posts from a Facebook group here on our Island that mirrored those sentiments. Someone wrote that they read somewhere that violence was on its way to Staten Island and that folks should be prepared, as in armed.

At the demonstrations Staten Island has hosted, so far, violence has not occurred. The only violent acts have been grown men yelling disgusting things from their cars as they rode past. How brave of them!

Recently, many news sources have reported that groups and posts inciting violence at demonstrations have stemmed from supposedly white supremacist sources that are not connected to those protesting the violent murders of African Americans we have seen, not only for the past few months but, for some of us, our entire lifetimes. Some of us remember Emmett Till and civil rights workers. We remember the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X. This is not new. This is an often told tale.

I have never personally witnessed this level of aggression before. Armed protestors walking into a state Capital and threatening people. Looting and rioting during otherwise peaceful protests. Yelling and screaming and sign waving and flag waving and all because of fear.

I will say it again. I will keep on saying it till people understand.

“Fear is the enemy. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” Gandhi said that. Another quote I find relevant comes from an anonymous source: “First, they ignore you. Then, they laugh at you. Then, they fight you. Then, you win.”

The fear that I am seeing online is based on the concept that if somebody gets ahead of you on line, they’re going to steal everything you want because they’re first, and you’re not going to have anything.

Hogwash! The often ridiculed Mayor de Blasio said it best: “There’s enough money for everything. It’s just in the wrong hands.” If we can come up with a stimulus package that goes into the billions, then we have enough (right now!) to pay for everything that we need. We may have higher taxes as a result, but isn’t that worth saving lives?

The fear that I am seeing is based on the assumption that you don’t have more than two options for anything. I often see “But if (X) gets this, then we won’t have money for (Y).” Balderdash! Every teacher knows that money is placed in different budgets for different things. That’s why the idea that you can hire two younger, less expensive teachers for the price of one older teacher is a lie. There’s still only ONE position to fill! We have the money. It’s just being used for the wrong things.

And, as for the idea of self-protection…I have to ask…what are we protecting? You know why we have no violence during our demonstrations? Because, there’s nothing here to smash! Our only high end outlets are at the now closed Empire Outlets. Is somebody going to do a smash and grab, run for the ferry, wait for an hour and then just get off on the Manhattan side? I seriously doubt they’d get that far.

Here’s what we need: We need better training and vetting of our police officers. We need to know that, like teachers and health professionals and firefighters, years of seeing the worst that humanity can be won’t wear them down or turn them sour.

We need health care for everybody. Yes, for everybody! We need jobs that pay enough and have sick days attached. We need better parent preparation programs. We need smaller class sizes in classrooms, staffed by caring, qualified professionals. We need exceptional health care for woman and children. We need to ban the sale and use of attack rifles. We need to secure our postal service and offer the ability to vote by mail to everybody. Yes, everybody! We need to make sure all communities have access to healthy foods, great hospitals and top notch child care services. We need to protect Mother Earth and find ways to reverse the climate change that we’ve inflicted upon her. We’re the greatest country in the world. We need to start acting like it.

And, that’s my hope. That IF there is a change-over in November, and IF other people step in to run the government, that we can finally show the rest of the country that might not agree with us how a great country runs. When people are offered alternatives to fossil fuel, when all of our cities have clean water, when all student debt is a thing of the past and more kids are going to college and getting better jobs when they graduate, we’ll see a sorely needed change in this country.

Maybe then, we can concentrate on eliminating our fears and seeing each other for what we truly are: fellow travelers on this planet.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. Everybody has one!

Hold those grey heads high!

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