A student of mine is afraid.
She's one of the most conscientious students in the journalism course I teach at Coastal Carolina University.
She's afraid the major political and policy changes taking place will curtail our freedoms.
She expressed that fear during a discussion about the potential good and ills of the recent changes to the student loan program, in which the federal government essentially cut out the middle man to provide more Pell grants. Previously most of the loans had been funded and guaranteed by the government but funneled through private banks.
It's the kind of fear that will be on display tomorrow at Chapin Park during the tea party rally.
I imagine if we could cut through all of the noise about the country being on the brink, we'd find fear at its core.
Fear of the known — we are only beginning to recover from an ugly recession — fear of the unknown — no one is certain what will happen next — and fear of change, because no matter how good or bad, change creates stress.
Had we had more time or been in a different setting, I would have told my student to think back over the country's 23 decades, to its tumultuous founding, which included defeating the superpower that was the British military and grappling with the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom while deeming slavery constitutional.
I would have told her to think back to the world wars and our use of two atomic bombs.
I would have reminded her the nation's debt ratio was much greater during the mid-20th century and that there were loud screams then, as there are today, that the country was headed for the brink because of spending. Instead, we forced the ratio down by growing the economy by investing in our future, according to economists who study that period. Private businesses whose owners reinvest in their companies with wise use of short-term debt also come out stronger than those who simply focus on cutting expenses.
I would have told her about the yesteryear claims that Medicare would soon turn us into a socialist society. More than four decades later we remain a democratic republic.
I would have told her people feared the Deficit Reduction Act under President Clinton would ruin the economy because it included targeted tax increases. Instead, it led to our longest economic expansion and a budget surplus.
And I would have told her to think back to that fateful Tuesday morning in September 2001.
Each time, the fear was palatable.
Each time, we grew stronger.
If she attends the tea party rally — and maybe she should — I hope someone there reminds her that while fear comes and goes, this country — and its freedoms — remain.
Because we won't ever let them go.