9/11, iKids, and a Culture of Fear

I want it to stop, but the images keep coming:

  • A journalist in orange with his executioner in black ready to cut off his head
  • A woman in an elevator being knocked unconscious with one blow to her jaw
  • A video of a drone launching a missile at convoy of trucks
  • The body of an unarmed youth laying in a puddle of blood in the middle of a street
  • The special broadcast of our President telling the American public we have to fight on another battlefield to protect our freedom

And these are the images that have been streamed into our digital screens just in the last month as we consume the latest news.

Mary Piper in the classic book, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, talked about how the images in the wider culture are the “wallpaper” of our children’s lives. When we put wallpaper up in a room, we take great care to make sure the patterns match along the edges. But after a couple of days it recedes into the background. What was new becomes normal.

It’s hard to image it, but today’s iKids, those born since 2000, have no memory of 9/11. For them it is just an historic event. But for those of us who experienced it, who watched it unfold before our very eyes – it signals to us a loss in the way we are living our lives.

Many of the things that are now normal have a direct link to the airplanes being flown into the twin towers.

  • Taking off shoes and belts as we go through security at the airport
  • Surveillance cameras on every street corner and public space
  • Passwords that must have a number, a symbol, and at least 8 characters
  • Soldiers fighting an unending war with no end in sight.

But these are the symptoms of a much greater issue, we live in a constant state of fear, especially when it comes to our children that is seen in a number of ways:

  • Giving our iKids smartphones at age 8 so we can get in touch with them when they are not with us. Why? If an emergency happens, we want to know they are safe.
  • Making sure they are always under adult supervision whether at home, school, or play. We wouldn’t even consider letting them loose in the neighborhood to play with their friends. Why? We don’t trust our neighbors or our society.
  • Making sure they are outfitted with the latest safety devices when they ride their bikes, go on their skateboards, or play team sports. Why? We are afraid to let them take risks.
  • Driving them from this class to that activity at all hours of the week in a constant state of activity. Why? We don’t want them to fall behind the other iKids. And we certainly don’t want to take the time to think, to feel, and to…breathe.

But fear has it costs – Innocence. Peace. Security. Hope.

Perhaps that is why the song from Frozen made such an impact in the lives of American parents. “Let it go” is something that we desperately want to do. But the cycle of violent events seems to keep us from finding that space where we can be free.

As I wrestle with these thoughts, these words from Jesus come to mind: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.”

The antidote to fear is not anger or hatred but love. Is it possible for us to discover this love, a love that can only come from God?

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