Fear in the American Dream

Awnings are places of transition, of metamorphosis, of shifting from one stage to the next, from outside to inside and visa versa…it is the human condition to be in a constant state of change.  It is the struggle, but we fight and rage against it. We struggle against the struggle, rather seeking constancy and certainty.

In doing so, we believe ourselves to be fighting the good fight, raising arms against chaos, against entropy, against naivety. But these things are not sins, they are not the monsters under our beds, they are not the sickness that plagues us. They are what it is to be human, not to be fought against but to be looked at with wide and hungry eyes, breathed in and leaned into. Fighting the dark does not ensure the light.

Nor does enforcing the light ever eliminate the darkness. The order we impose, the creativity we pursue, and the knowledge we embrace are all worthy, human endeavors, but when we use them as weapons, seeing chaos, entropy, and innocence as evils to overcome, we actually fall further from them: order becomes rigid; creativity becomes self-aggrandizement and mere production; knowledge becomes unquestioning certainty; light becomes blinding.

If we were to take a step back, see these dichotomies as just that, elements in balance, each feeding and defining the other, then we can discern the true boogy-man in the closet: fear. Fear is the only true devil of humanity, trapping us in that struggle against change and transition rather than against itself.

Of course, fear can be healthy. It is a natural part of our survival instinct: fight/flight and heightened senses when there is imminent danger. But like a disease, it spreads, moves from the situational to the existential.

We grow up believing in the American Dream. At it’s core, the American Dream is the ability to not fear whether your basic needs will be met, but through our two-hundred plus years of history, that Dream has become commercialzed, something to be marketed: the white picket fence, the 2.5 children, etc. It has become a weaponized hope: rigid(mow that lawn), productive(work so much that you can’t enjoy it), certain(this is THE American Dream) and blinding(the Dream is only for certain people).

We have made the Dream a commodity, something for accountants to tally, something that can be taken away, lost if we let in the wrong people or allow them to move in next door. Fear creeps in as we worry about property values, when we have lost sight of what it is the “wrong” people are actually demanding, craving, or crying out for in the darkness: the privlege of not having to fear.

Fear is a sickness that resists diagnosis by disguising itself as both the disease and the cure, pitting the inside against the outside, one side of the coin against the other. When that happens, the coin, the very thing we were trying to protect, is destroyed.

This is why I love awnings. They are accessible to anyone feeling trapped inside and to those caught out in the rain, providing a moment’s respite before embarking once again into the spaces of our fears. They are the coin’s edge, a haven under which we huddle together to wait out the sudden storm. We must strive to find such places, to allow ourselves to breathe and be in transition, to remember what the Dream is as we move over to make room, for those as drenched as we are, without fear.


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