This past weekend, Stephen Colbert called on Americans to embrace their fear at The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or March to Keep Fear Alive in Washington, D.C. While he implored us to do this humorously, there are forces in American politics and society that are not joking. They have used fear of the “other” — whether Mexican, Muslim, or gay — in order to mobilize citizens to vote their deep seated anxieties.
Enter Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), the social enterprise behind the popular Happy Birthday Katrina and Haik U Glenn Beck campaigns. Not only has JFSJ been actively working to engage with communities in order to get out the vote for tomorrow’s midterm elections, they have also created Al Tirah (Fear Not), a campaign to counter the fear that is seeping into our political process. As Chief Strategy Officer Mik Moore noted in an editorial in the Huffington Post, al tirah is one of the most frequently invoked phrases in the Bible: An utterance God says at least 122 times, which should say something about the importance of staying away from fear and despair.
As the saying goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” So with what does JSFJ intend to replace fear? Radical empathy. As Jews, we know what it’s like to be persecuted and despised, and our collective memory of suffering demands that we reach out and help others who are now being ostracized as we had once been.
JSFJ has thus created the Empathy Monster, a spiky haired creature meant to represent Americans at their very best and to counter the Fear Monster currently running wild in our national discourse. And because it’s a creature of the 21st Century, the Empathy Monster has a Facebook page. (As does the Fear incarnation, who is equally tech savvy.) You can join the conversation on Facebook or at Al Tirah USA’s own website.
As FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear are robots possessed of artificial intelligence. And if we’re being realistic, we’ve got at least twenty years before that threat becomes significant.” Or something like that.
So fear not! Get out to your local polling booths tomorrow and vote your hopes, not your panic, for the future of our country!