This National Review piece by Kyle Smith is interesting, but I don’t buy much of it. The author doesn’t entirely succeed in the balancing act (no surprise). Moreover, John Wilson has me suspicious of the way that fear is constantly rolled out as an explanatory force.
I have some concerns about the kind of work “fear” does as an explanatory force, too. Fear is often innocent, understandable, etc. When we say that someone is acting out of fear, we may wish they were more courageous, but we’re usually willing to let them off the hook a bit becuase of course they would be afraid. But I think I can say with confidence that many people, on many sides, are simply seeking every advantage they can get over their neighbor. That’s what I see, at least – people in a downward spiral toward anything that gives them an advantage over others. Fear is not even close to the only or even primary motivation for that. There are less innocent, more self-serving reasons. Focusing on fear just lets people off the hook for even uglier motivations. (And, lest anyone say, “that sounds like a fearful thing to say,” it’s not. Acknowledging that the ugly pursuit of advantage over one’s neighbor does not, of necessity, imply fear.)