Resist the temptation to fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” —Presi­dent Franklin D. Roosevelt

Newly elected, Mr. Roosevelt began his term as the Great Depression continued, leveling off in 1933, and the long road to recovery was only a dream in the minds of some people. Any thought that better days might lie ahead was simply too overwhelming to consider, when finding food and living from day to day were the only priorities that mattered.

Fear of the future, reinforced by experiences of failure, was the order of the day. Faith in the economy and in the ability to recover and persevere suffered and could not shake off the sense of gloom and doom in the cities and communities.

Every family was affected by the ravages of economic collapse. I remember the stories told by my parents and relatives as they struggled to survive. Though farmers could always feed themselves and their families, they had to carefully manage their meager resources.

Out of this experience, the generation affected by it was fiscally conservative, to a fault. They never wanted to go through that again. Living within one’s means was the controlling value.

Fear can also become a powerful, negative influence as well. President Roosevelt refers to this in the comment mentioned in the beginning.

Today, we see the negative side of fear in politics. The sources of fake news stories capitalize on our fears and amplify them, exploiting our tendency to react and believe them, without checking out the facts. We are easily influenced to vote one way or another in an election, when what we should really fear are the motives of the people who operate these fake news outlets.

We see its presence in the media as people react to stories of Islamic extremists blow themselves up, killing dozens of people at a time. We listen to media that exploit our fear of the radical Jihadists, who tell us this is why we must resort to extreme behavior, to protect ourselves and our culture.

To put this fear into perspective, based on the Center for Disease Control’s own statistics of deaths in the U.S., a person is 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist in America. (

You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.

You are 4,706 times more likely to die from drinking yourself to death than a terrorist attack.

You are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical malpractice as well.

I even read another statistic from another source mentioning you were more than 700 times more likely to die at the hands of a toddler, in diapers, with a loaded gun, than from terrorism.

Fear is irrational and can be as easily based on false assumptions, rather than on solid facts.

How should we live, then? Fear is a useful tool as our instinct warns us of potential harm. But let’s not allow ourselves or other people to capitalize on irrational and unfounded fear. Rather, let’s use it to build on the good things we can do to make our lives, and those around us, better.

Paul Penner farms in the Hillsboro area. He has been active statewide and nationally regarding agriculture policy.