Fear and common sense collide

By Reade Brower | Apr 29, 2021

Fear and common sense are close cousins. Both function as protection, coming at it from very different angles.

Over history, the yin and the yang of fear have been confusing. Most recently, with COVID-19 and four years of a Trump administration, fear has been used as a lever to both manipulate and motivate his disciples.

The yin had us taunted by Trump to fear immigration policies; we needed to build walls and keep them out because they were dangerous killers. Meanwhile the yang had Trump doing the opposite with COVID-19, dismissing it, undermining Dr. Fauci, and confusing it, getting us to question our innate rights to our civil liberties versus protecting and respecting others’ space.

Maybe less fear about immigrants being rapists and mules carrying drugs, to the other side of the gamut that COVID-19 was a hoax and no more than a common flu that “would go away when the weather got warm.” These mixed messages ripped apart communities rather than creating a united force. The strategy was to separate us in divide-and-conquer mentality, putting all sides on edge.

Common sense is the bridge helping calculate and weigh dangers with rewards. Individual freedom is one end, but when individual liberties affect others (like not wearing masks in public settings), lines get drawn.

Growing up, young people constantly straddle the line between fear and common sense. My mother grew up fearful of riding a bicycle and swimming, two things she never did in her 80-plus years of living. Common sense tells us there is risk to all activities, while fear allows us to judge which ones straddle the line and which ones to avoid. My mother missed out on lots of fun times because of the fear instilled in her during her youth.

The never maskers don’t complain loudly about speed limits, seat belt restrictions, helmet laws for motorcycles, and even agree not to smoke indoors and in public places. It remains a mystery why those who abide by no smoking rules that protect non-smokers’ rights, steadfastly refuse to wear a mask, calling COVID-19 overblown.

A friend likes to tell me (often) people die with COVID, not of COVID. Yet if you look at the death rates in Maine over the last year you’ll see they increased 4.5%. That is direct correlation, equating to the number of COVID deaths reported. Common sense tells us COVID deaths are real, not imaginary — not hyped up and this statistic supports that. The increased deaths are in spite of the precautions Gov. Mills established during the early days of the pandemic.

Instead of applauding Mills, opponents say she is driving the fear of Maine citizens. Others see Mills playing to policies guided by her commonsense approach.

We know driving a car is dangerous and statistics showed clearly a 55 mph speed limit saved lives. It also saved a lot of energy. However, the public wanted to go back to 65 to 70 and after the yin and yang of common sense versus personal liberties, decided the faster limit, though not as safe or efficient as the lower limit, was worth the risk.

That is how the process works; playing to the yin and the yang. It is a pendulum whose very nature is to swing back and forth with a goal of finding the middle.

The middle ground is reached when both sides come together and honor each other for their beliefs. Honor those who live on the edge, respect those who are cautious.

Fear is what allows us to pull our hand away and warns us danger lurks around dark corners. Used correctly, it is lifesaving. An overabundance of fear causes distress, anxiety and paralysis.

The complexity of the yin and the yang collide, with common sense the tie-breaker. What makes sense to you does not always make sense to your neighbor; compromise is needed. Can we allow those who want live with reckless abandon do so, as long as they respect others who don’t think the same way? Is there a place where individuals choose where their pendulum can land?

The challenge is respect for others while honoring our own rebel spirit and not buying into the hype others create around the major issues of our times.

Fear is a great detractor as well as protector, doing as much harm as it does good.

Common sense, on the other hand, is not motivated by fear; fear is an ally that helps determine what we need to be careful of, without unfounded worry.

“Don’t borrow trouble” is a phrase, scribbled on a piece of paper, held on my late mother’s refrigerator by a magnet. My mother used her commonsense approach to life to never let her fear stop my curiosity or curtail my necessity to explore, for which I am grateful.

With balance on the forefront, and respect leading the way, common sense is the key tool to navigating the malaise.


Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. — Marie Curie; physicist and chemist (1867-1934)

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 29, 2021 11:28

When walking around town unmasked and without worry, am extremely grateful for the common sense approach of Governor Mills, Dr. Shah and most of our populace.  KUDOS!!

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