Elections: Let Hope, Not Fear Be Your Guide - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Elections: Let Hope, Not Fear Be Your Guide

November 6th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Elections: Let Hope, Not Fear Be Your Guide

By Rabbi Dean Shapiro

Guest Writer

I loved Halloween as a boy. I’d wander through the streets near my house collecting goodies, convinced for all the world that my neighbors believed an actual skeleton was strolling through town.

We knew the people who lived near us – if not by name, than by the loot they gave. There was the family who handed out full-sized chocolate bars, the one who gave apples and the man who barbequed hot dogs on his lawn. I’d devour most of my candy that very night.

I remember the Halloween it all changed. The hot dogs were suddenly gone, as was the fruit. Those homeowners meant us no harm, but they knew our parents shouldn’t allow us to accept such treats – after all, sickos might hide razor blades to slice our tongues, or lace them with poison.

Invisible walls were erected that night, as we started to see one another not as potential friends, but as potential threats.

How did it happen, that we became so afraid of one another?

As I watch the political commercials that barrage us this season, I’m struck by how regularly the “fear card” is played. If we don’t vote a certain way, criminal immigrants will overrun our city! Seniors’ power bills will increase! Taxes will skyrocket! Marriage itself will be undermined!

These claims are repeated despite a lack of evidence. We are told to focus only on avoiding the downside and not to hope for better, cleaner, more equal lives. I can’t help but wonder: who benefits from that?

Voting is meant to be a rational process, but so often it’s a popularity contest. It’s influenced by the campaigns’ marketing efforts and their ability to cause us to fear.

The Torah instructs us “al tirah – do not fear.” In fact, this commandment is the most often repeated of the entire Torah, occurring 80 times in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

Why does the Torah emphasize refusing to fear so vehemently? Perhaps because it’s important. Fear leads us to make poor decisions. When we’re afraid, we react instead of act. We think short term. We fail to listen and to see what’s possible.

Perhaps the Torah repeats the admonition not to fear because fear is difficult to avoid. Fear is a fundamental human instinct, hardwired into the core of our brain. There are times when it’s wise to fear. Fear can be overwhelming and hard to overcome.

When we fear, we shut ourselves down. We become small and hardened. We fail to think about other people’s experiences, needs, vulnerabilities, hopes. In seeking to preserve what we have, we fail to imagine what we might become.

I believe we are greater than that, in every way. I want initiatives and leaders who will help us build a healthier, more equitable future for all our children.

While there are real things to be afraid of in this world, there are also boogey-men placed in our way by others who want to manipulate us into voting their way.

On Nov. 6 and Oct. 31, let’s remember the Bible’s advice: Do Not Fear.

Instead, let’s imagine how life could be: a healthy planet, quality education for all, civil liberties protected. Rather than running away from something scary, let’s walk towards something wonderful. When I vote this year, whether for candidates or initiatives, I’ll do so from a place of hope.

— Rabbi Dean Shapiro is the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel of Tempe. Reach him at rshapiro@emanueloftempe.org.