Fear may be preventing progress in our world

Adil Shamoo, in a Baltimore Sun editorial, sees Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress as an indication that what Netanyahu really wants is war with Iran.

Baltimore Sun editors have a somewhat more moderate view. They note that the Netanyahu speech is an attack on President Obama’s foreign policy overture to Iran. They further point out that no real alternatives to diplomacy are provided, suggesting that there really is no deal with Iran, whatever the terms, that would be acceptable to Netanyahu.

Now we have a letter from 47 Republican senators directly to the leaders of Iran to tell them that whatever agreement is reached the United States need not abide by it.

It strikes me that once again fear is driving these responses. Benjamin Netanyahu is legitimately concerned about the safety of Israel. Many in Congress are concerned about the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

For me, the fear is similar to the fear of traditionalist Catholics that something vital will be lost if even the slightest change is countenanced by Pope Francis and the ongoing Synod of Bishops. The message that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) is still not getting through.

Yet fear at best can only cement current practices or circumstances in place. There can be no improvement in any problematic situation. There is no way to make things better if one clings to fear.

We must reach beyond fear to examine our world and try to make it better. Fear of diplomacy, for example, renders any negotiations impossible. Is it possible that the government of Iran has changed in at least some respects? Is it more open to accommodation with the West? We will never know because we are afraid to consider the possibility.

Cuba is another example. Those who are afraid to upset the status quo force us to live forever with a less than desirable relationship. Venturing into the unknown is scary, but we are doomed to repeating the same unworkable policies unless we consider something different.

Yitzhak Rabin once said, “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.”

President John F. Kennedy said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

Of course there are many other reasons why there is so much opposition to this deal with Iran. Politics and antagonism to anything this president attempts have been noted by many. Yet even politics is rooted in tapping into the fears of the American people, and working to make them even more fearful.

It bothers me that something seems to have happened to this country. The United States has never been a nation motivated out of excessive fear. We have leaped to the challenges confronting us for more that 200 years. Those of us who are older remember that the slogan at General Electric was, “Progress is our most important product.” Today progress seems to be something to be feared more than lauded.

Now we seem afraid in almost every category. We question statements coming out of science. We refuse to vaccinate our children and thus contribute to a significant measles epidemic. We won’t allow our children to play anywhere except in our fenced in yard or under our constant and watchful eye. We don’t trust each other so how can we trust the government of Iran.

We helped make peace in Northern Ireland. We opened meaningful relations with China under President Richard Nixon. We came to nuclear arms agreements with Russia under President Ronald Reagan, even dismantling some of our missiles. We didn’t do it by being afraid to talk with our enemies. As President Reagan once said, trust, but verify.

The time has come to venture out into this dangerous world and dare to make peace. Although this effort is often portrayed as between the U.S. and Iran it is not. All of the major world powers are working together to make this happen. It is absolutely appropriate for us to be a part of this coalition and we should all be praying and hoping for their success.


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