COLUMN: Fear causes a lot of reactions.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2008

When we&8217;re faced with a dangerous situation, scientists tell us, our autonomic nervous system kicks in. That&8217;s a part of the peripheral nervous system , which controls organs and muscles in the body.

When faced with physical danger, for instance a dog threatening to bite, our pupils dilate, our hearts beat faster and harder.

In other words, we get excited and ready to run.

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But other kinds of fears, such as fear of change, causes different reactions in us. These aren&8217;t as physically noticeable, yet they play out in the community, just as our nervous system creates visible physical reactions in our bodies.

And, in some ways, the reactions exacerbated by fear of change or fear of the unknown may be alleviated by simply talking out a situation or waiting to see what happens.

Sociologists tell us that, generally, groups of people are resistant to other groups unlike them.

For instance, when a group of people, such as the Freedom Foundation volunteers, move into a small town, many who have lived here before look in askance at their ways.

They have become a part of the community, showing up for many events and helping out others. We don&8217;t know everything about the volunteers that came from Colorado to live here.

We don&8217;t purport to know what is in their hearts and minds. Nobody truly knows the mind of another.

Yet, they are human beings and that is, or should be, enough.

Recently, the yard of Mark Duke, the Freedom Foundation&8217;s president, was vandalized. Somebody wasted a good deal of toilet paper on the lawn. And someone sent the residents of the house, including Duke&8217;s family, a nasty message by painting it onto the grass.

And, on Facebook, a Web site supposedly meant to encourge friendship, somebody wrote some nasty things about the Freedom Foundation.

We are all interconnected.

We need to listen to one another and to try to understand those we perceive as different or who would change the status quo.

If we do not try to understand and maintain openness toward those whose ways are different from ours, then we will only damage ourselves and those around us by responding so violently.

Action under the cover of night or anonymously seems cowardly to me. That&8217;s not the kind of Selma I moved into.

Leesha Faulkner is executive editor of the

Times-Journal. Call her at 410-1730 or

e-mail leesha.faulkner@selma times