The price of fear-mongering

Getting whipped up about the rising tide of “crime” appears to be all the rage in Canada these days. The media is filled with stories and opinion pieces which are intended to convince us that our streets have become a brewing cauldron of violence. There are now major newspaper and radio and television stations for whom news broadcasts have become little more than crime reports. Apparently, it isn’t an umbrella you should remember to take with you, but a bullet-proof vest. This trend, unfortunately, works directly opposite to what pro-life people are trying to do.

The most dramatic change on the streets of Toronto in recent years has not been due to any drastic increase in crime. The overwhelming majority of streets are utterly safe day and night. No, the most dramatic change has been how we treat each other as a result of all the fear-mongering.

We have come to regard the stranger as an enemy. Those we do not know are not to be trusted. Those who are unfamiliar are those who harbour ill intentions—they want to rob us, to rape us, and to murder us. The stranger has ceased to be another human being just like us, and has become some alien figure with the most vile of intentions.

A recent bit of daytime television neatly, but quite unintentionally, captured the problem. Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime television with an audience of several million, recently has a show on “security consciousness.” Aided by a hidden camera she showed how some people in town failed to be security conscious. The camera revealed that some were so foolish that they actually opened their front doors to an unexpected flower delivery person, arriving by van and bearing a large bouquet. But that could have been a thief, a rapist or murderer, we were told. How foolish to open your door to a stranger.

One week later this same talk show host had a programme, again featuring the work of a hidden camera. This time the camera recorded the results when people did unexpected acts of kindness for complete strangers. And what happened? Well, surprise of surprises, a whole bunch of people regarded with suspicion these offers of kindness from strangers, and in some cases refused the help offered by them. Again we were invited to cast a harsh judgment—this time on people so cold that they would turn down another’s kindness.

Only a twit, and Oprah Winfrey, would fail to make the connection. If we believe that the world is filled with dangerous strangers we will regard others with suspicion. WE will not only refuse their kindnesses, but even more so will we refuse to show kindness.

The atmosphere which this fear-mongering produces is profoundly anti-life. It fosters a mentality which says that others are not to be trusted. The stranger is someone who intends to take advantage of you. Your only protection is to look out for yourself because no one else will. The stranger is evil.

There is no room in such a mindset for welcoming the unexpected unborn child. Such a child is indeed a stranger. We have no idea what she or he will be like. The pro-life assumption is that the unborn child is a creature of God, fundamentally good, a treasure to be protected. The assumption that people are basically evil and untrustworthy can only motivate one to destroy the intruding stranger, no matter how small.

A pro-life stance requires a willingness to make sacrifices to create a home for a stranger. Making a place for an unexpected child can involve huge changes in one’s life. The willingness to do so is choked off by an attitude which says that your only concern should be your own welfare and safety, that since no one is looking out for you, you had better look out for yourself.

Powerful forces are aligned behind the fear-mongering Media outlets, security companies, various politicians and police forces stand to benefit by the public being convinced that crime is out of control. The fear created has implications which extend far beyond the issue of crime. We need to think and discuss as a society what all those implications are. The evils which such fear breeds will in the end be far greater than any crime problem we presently have. The victims, I believe, will include the unborn.

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