I’ve often said in discussions ranging from politics to religion over the years that the most powerful agent in making those topics as explosive as they are is fear.

We all grow the way the wind blows, so to speak, but as we grow, what keeps those beliefs in line and steady for so many? What creates invisible boundaries in our minds which aids in keeping us from reaching an understanding with a different or a more progressive way of thinking?

Fear. It’s all fear.

For the characters driving that fear, their motivator is often two things: money and power.

If Big Pharma is stripped of everything overnight, you’re talking a multi-billion dollar industry falling into oblivion thanks to universal healthcare, which knocks a whole bunch of rich guys down to our level — people who obtained those riches by jacking up the prices of insulin, cancer treatments, blood-thinners, and painkillers.

That forces many patients to choose between life in colossal debt or death in only some debt, and uninsured onto the streets for lower-priced, unregulated and untested alternatives, leading to a vicious addiction cycle which likely includes incredibly expensive rehab stays, which all get their funding from the same industry that sent these people to these fates in the first place.

Universal healthcare has its own issues, even in just the contemplative phase, such as how do we ensure that it doesn’t just turn into an extension of Veteran’s Affairs, where people sometimes wait weeks and months to see a doctor, and even die waiting to see a doctor? That’s not its only reality, but it is a reality many have faced, so it’s a concern.

But the difference is those questions can be answered with effort and thought, as the questions are of a procedural construct. Problems with solutions.

Asking how we force rich guys to regulate themselves from making more money when that’s all they’re in this for is more or less trying to pin a moral tail on an amoral donkey.

Ultimately, their fear of losing money is why they’ve thrown so many millions, and even billions, at political candidates who, once they’re in office, are mandated to strike down any attempt to strip these companies of their ability to regulate the market which has seen prescription prices jacked up 200–400%, and in some cases, as much as 1,000%.

Their fear becomes your fear by way of scare tactics like rhetoric accusing those in favor of free healthcare of being communists, socialists, anti-American, and big government wanting to control your life.

That rhetoric can be in speeches, TV and internet ads, interviews, internet “news” stories, and special segments inserted into cable news programming for the direct purpose of sowing doubt and mistrust.

Another angle is to accuse credible news outlets of being “fake news” while unchecked and uncredible outlets gain power, prestige, and prosperity.

Fear is why there are concentration camps on our southern border. We have a president who claims that these people are coming to get us; they’re coming to infiltrate our borders and overwhelm our cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. They’re coming to change the way we eat, the way we speak, and the way we look.

For some people, presidential candidates speaking in Spanish is, itself, a bridge too far. A sign that we’re heading towards a colorless, borderless, culture-deprived country. I know people who feel this way and that isn’t a pride response, it’s a fear response.

When enough people in high places scream at you that these people are coming and scream at you their intentions, you start to believe it. When someone you trust in your own world tells you the same things, you’re liable to start firmly believing in these things.

We’ve been through this so many times in the past that it sometimes seems hopeless that we’ll ever learn our lesson.

We enslaved black people legally in this country. They didn’t gain Civil Rights until 1964, 99 years after the end of slavery, and even then, it was hotly and highly contested. Opponents in government called it unconstitutional to force white people to live in equality with black people.

That was in 1964, the year my father was born. My mother was already four-years-old. That’s how recent it was that restrooms, businesses and ballparks had signs hanging on them that read “WHITE’S ONLY”.

Fear is why we marginalize Native Americans and have somehow managed to keep them on the margins of American society.

Our earliest ancestors came to their lands, murdered them, stole from them, and now we have the audacity to tell other people to get off of our stolen lands. Irony is not our strong suit.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we took Japanese-Americans out of their homes and lives and put them in camps.

That, too, was out of fear.

World War II is often looked at as our crowning achievement as a nation. But it didn’t come without unconscionable and indefensible actions on our part here at home.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. saw a sharp increase in Islamophobia. That increase has become a political tool, and yet another damaging stain on our country.

None of these horrifying truths are possible without fear.

We are a great nation, and we have achieved almighty things. But now is no time to live off of our gunslinger reputations while we spend the present paralyzed by fear of the unknown and of one another.

We should never be a nation of cowards. But right now, cowards are running the show.

They hide behind the mobs they create, the hate they cultivate, and the division they sow. They use lies, propaganda and a litany of trolling techniques to set-off those that oppose them and rile up their base.

The president tells the nation that if you complain about our country or are unhappy with our country, then you should leave it.

Like so many millions more, loving my country means that I will never be satisfied with it. There are always ways to improve it, and there are always ways to advance our mandate of bringing liberty and justice for all, whatever forms they take.

Fear is the only way to unravel that cause and to establish a status quo.

My great-grandfather fought in World War II, and I have many uncles and relatives who served valiantly in Vietnam. I’m deeply proud of their service to this country, to their families, and to themselves.

But their accomplishments are not my accomplishments. I, along with this generation of Americans, will set out to do my part in creating a more perfect union. To build on their work.

I will do my part to ensure that this country, and the world it exists within, thrives into the future.

We should never be identified by our fears, but there are things to fear that we can and must address.

Our changing climate is going to rapidly force our hands into a complex and difficult re-structuring of our entire economic system. We can take up the fight now and get out ahead, or simply wait for it to become too large to handle. We can start that fight by voting in leaders who will make this task their top priority and there are no shortage of candidates to choose from.

We must work to protect civil rights for all of our citizens, visitors, asylum seekers, and anyone else looking to better themselves within our borders. We must treat those who wish to prosper in America with humanity and dignity while they await their chance to join in the new American dream.

Women must reserve the right to make their own decisions when it comes to their reproductive rights and their bodies. It’s their decision and their business. Men can be involved in the discussion, but only once they’ve properly educated themselves on the subject and are qualified to participate. That should not be some insulting or impossible standard to meet. It’s just common sense.

Minorities should not have to worry if they’ll make it home ever again simply because they’ve been pulled over by the police, or stopped because they “look suspicious”.

We should not look down upon or fear poor people, we should look down upon poverty and seek our better angels within us to help defeat it.

Ultimately, we need to understand that the work ahead of us will likely not be achieved in our lifetimes. It is unlikely that we will live to see the full bloom of the fruits of our collective labor.

But let us begin to untangle ourselves from this fearful web of lies and deceit and begin to rite the ship of a country too great and too proud to continue this way much longer. Let’s pave the way for future generations to follow, block out the noise, and get to work.

As President Franklin Roosevelt once poignantly remarked, the only thing to fear is fear itself.

Joel Roza Jr. is an at-large writer covering a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from sports to politics and other special interests.