What Are We All So Afraid Of?

(Hint: It’s not the coronavirus.)

Why are we so frightened of those who are different? Why are so many angry at others who don’t look exactly like them, who don’t speak the same language, who aren’t the same sex, shape, size, color, or religion?

Are people so insecure that they must put others down for being different in order to feel good about themselves?

When did being different automatically become being wrong?

Two women attack a mother/daughter for speaking Spanish.

A Black man is gunned down in circumstances where a White man likely wouldn’t be.

A politician mocks someone with a physical disability, as those around him cheer and laugh.

This goes beyond civility, in my mind. This seems to say that various splinter groups think they have the only moral ground, the only high ground, the only way that life must be lived. And everyone else is wrong, wrong, WRONG.

And the saddest part? When one of a group is mocked by members because he’s not seen as “right” enough.

I just read a short excerpt (from his full column) written by Tim Teeman in The Week, a weekly magazine, on the attacks from many gays against former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Since I’m not gay, I hadn’t focused on where many of the attacks were coming from. I probably wouldn’t have voted for Buttigieg, but that’s not the point. For me, his being gay meant nothing, other than he had a lot of courage knowing he’d be targeted.

But I wonder if he expected to be targeted by others whose lives are similar to his. Who live a life that so many scorn. Who have known first-hand the prejudice of being different, especially when they “came out.”

Teeman reports that “…it was fellow gays who were most openly critical of Buttigieg, scorning him as ‘too guarded,’ ‘too nerdy,’ and ‘too eager to please heterosexuals.’ ”

That just seems so sad to me. I guess I wouldn’t have expected others who live his life to be upset because he wasn’t exactly like them. Not liking his policies would be one thing; not liking him because he wasn’t exactly their version of gay is another.

All in all, I wasn’t excited about Buttigieg as a possible presidential candidate, but I surely do applaud his courage. Give the guy credit, as he’s knocked down another barrier to our seeing someone as different yet also as perfectly fine.

What are your thoughts on this? I welcome seeing them on this or any other similar issue through your lens. 


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented.

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  1. I agree that being gay wasn’t even an issue for me. I heard him interviewed SEVERAL times and I can tell you, I was impressed with how he answered. I may not have agreed with him but he was well-spoken, made valid points, and remained in control – sounding very calm and reassuring.

  2. Susan, thank you for writing this piece and addressing this topic. There seems to be so much judgment lately. Since when do we have to fit into the same mold? It amazes me how our diversity can bring us together yet tear us apart at the same time. There’s something to be said for the innocence of young children; and their ability to see what’s inside instead of what’s outside.

    • Yes, Laura — kids are far kinder than we are, if they’re allowed to be. We can all learn from them!

  3. My thoughts Susan are that we are all made to be different, however, God did not create us to be hateful, predjudice, unkind etc. He also didn’t make the minds of people to be mean and hurtful in their words to those that are different from us. There are many who have broken the barriers to be different. Just because someone is different doesn’t mean that its their way or no way. I thank you for opening the diaologue and welcoming thoughts without judgements hopefully.

    • As so many have noted here and on other platforms, Lynn, no one comes into the world hating anyone else. We learn to judge … and that’s just so sad. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. My wife has a meme on our refrigerator: “No one is ever born a racist.” You could substitute a lot of words for “racist.” Somewhere along the way we learn intolerance, “targeting,” and hate. And today, it’s easier than ever to hide behind the walls of social media. My hope is that what I’ll call our social mores are like a rubber band – they have been severely stretched over the past three years, and maybe we can pull them back. There is a learning here, however. We have to recognize what we’ve lost and work at a very personal level to get back to civility. Thank you for this thought-provoking piece.

    • Ah, THAT’s where I just saw it here, Jeff! Yeah, no one comes into the world hating anyone else; it’s a learned behavior. And you’re more than welcome, my friend.

  5. Susan, thank you for writing and sharing your article. There is NOTHING wrong with being different! You cannot and should not physically or verbally abuse anybody for any reason except for criminals who prey on others. I could not support Pete Buttigieg because he was anti-Israel which makes him an anti-Semite, he had too little experience, his ideas or proposed policies were not practical, to say the least. The fact that he was gay was another reason I would not have voted for him. Those of us who hold to traditional religious values will not accept a man marrying a man. Men are not supposed to have sexual relationships with other men. However, as much as I am opposed to what he is and what he is doing he should NOT be subject to verbal or physical abuse. People can be different but we are not obligated to accept it but I will once again say NOBODY has the right to physically or verbally abuse anybody. I would make an exception to my rule for those three freshman Congresswomen who hate our country while supporting terrorist organizations. Trashing them verbally is perfectly acceptable.

  6. What thoughtful and meaningful questions you ask, Susan! Thank you for wondering and being concerned about this human being dynamic of making another wrong for what I call their “packaging.” The roots seem to lie in the need for survival and a very primitive way of relating to the world of other human beings. I believe many people are taught to fear difference-to “hate all the people your relatives hate.” (to quote Rogers and Hammerstein from the Musical, South Pacific) I’ve always wondered about the contents of another person’s character -noticing how a person treats other people, how they care for themselves and others around them. I’ve met people who are the salt of the earth, kind, caring, and compassionate dressed in different ways, showing up in all different races, gender, clothing, expression. I’ve met folks who are angry, contentious, and difficult to be around especially in certain situations. I hope for a day when people truly are “seen” for the contents of their character rather than all the outer appearance differences. The oak trees don’t oppress the maples. The daffodils don’t mock the roses or taunt the crocuses. May someday we appreciate one another like I believe we celebrate and appreciate the cornucopia of nature-trees, animals, fish, plants, flowers.

    • “The oak trees don’t oppress the maples.” In fact, they “talk” to each other underground through near microscopic roots, sharing resources. What do they know that we don’t?

  7. Pete Buttigieg isn’t gay enough. Candace Owens isn’t black enough. I’m not Irish enough. Rubbish! I’m plenty Irish enough. 🤪

    Kidding aside, Susan, I’m so happy you wrote this piece. It reminds me of this passage, with which I’ll leave you, from Harry Crews’s introduction to his book, Classic Crews:

    I hooked up with a carny and worked for a while as a caller for the ten-in-one show. In the world of carnivals, the ten-in-one is the freak show. I was especially fond of the Fat Lady and her friends there under the tent. I think I know why, and I know I know when, I started loving freaks. I had been able to rent a place to sleep from a freak man and his freak wife and I woke up one morning looking at both of them where they stood at the other end of their trailer in the kitchen. They stood perfectly still in the dim, yellow light, their backs to each other. I could not see their faces, but I was close enough to hear them clearly when they spoke.

    “What’s for supper, darling?” he said.

    “Franks and beans, with a nice little salad,” she said.

    And then they turned to each other under the yellow light. The lady had a beard not quite as thick as my own but about three inches long and very black. The man’s face had a harelip. His face was divided so that the top of his nose forked. His eyes were positioned almost on the sides of his head and in the middle was a third eye that was not really an eye at all but a kind of false lid over a round indentation that saw nothing. It was enough, though, to make me taste bile in my throat and to cause a cold fear to start in my heart.

    They kissed. Their lips brushed briefly and I heard them murmur to each other and he was gone through the door. And I, lying at the back of the trailer, was never the same again.

    I have never stopped remembering that as wondrous and special as those two people were, they were only talking about and looking forward to and needing precisely what all the rest of us talk about and look forward to and need.

    • Holy everything, Batman … or Mark. That’s an amazing story you shared, and I’d never even heard of Harry Crews! And it looks like I missed some interesting books!

      I’ll never say the outer person doesn’t matter at all, but I’m still aiming for what’s inside, who’s inside — their values. Their heart. Their soul. Thanks so much for that short piece here, Mark! It’ll stay with me for a long time.

  8. Who are you people? I’m so in awe of this incredible group of like-minded and like-hearted folks I’ve been craving for meeting for so long!

    Million thanks dear Suzen for this gem 💎 I had chills all over my body and my eyes were tearing out of beauty! 💙

    That’s the reason why I so loved the masterpiece song “This is me” (I’ll be adding a unique rehearsal below). When I heard it for the first time, I danced, clapped, sang, cried with both a frustration and an enthusiasm: the frustration of the huge imbalance making the world so judgemental in the first place, and the enthusiasm of seeing the warrior despite the hurt!

    Thank you again for this exquisite share lady! Stay blessed 🌞🧚‍♀️