Rule by Fear, and Why We Should Overcome It

by Jack Bragen

Bullies love to instill and weaponize fear. A common tactic is malevolent sarcasm: They think it’s funny that they can harm us. Bullies will assume they can scare anyone. Many criminals rely on fear as a survival tool. This essay will discuss fear, and how Donald Trump and governments employ it

Evolution gave human beings the capacity for fear. We are not alone in this. I have seen insect life exhibit fear. In one instance, I witnessed a beetle fleeing a small lizard, doing the best sprint it possibly could. The reptile caught up to the bug and got it in its mouth, with only the head of the beetle exposed, and started chomping. I could really see that the bug was in great agony, its head sticking out of the reptile’s mouth while it faced its death. And insects are invertebrates, considered far lower on the evolutionary scale. 

Fear in human beings is arguably the least pleasant of our emotions. When we were young, fear helped us survive, because there were a lot of things that we did not understand, and we needed the fear either to do as we were told by parents, or we needed the fear to stay away from something we didn’t understand. 

Being afraid sucks eggs. As adults, we probably have much less of a need for this emotion. It could help in some situations. But often, it gets in the way. 

Fear is an emotion that often is used against us by our enemies and by predatory people and organizations. Fear paralyzes. Fear works against us more than it does for us. 

We also see fear in nature. A lioness roars and gives chase, striking fear into a herd of zebras, then choosing the weakest-looking of the bunch, and giving slaughter. If all of the zebras collectively fought back, it would change the entire picture. 

I am familiar with the emotion—in fact, overly so. But I’m not going to use the space here to speak of my personal struggles. Instead, I’d like to speak of how governments, politicians, dictators, and other thugs, weaponize fear, using the other person’s fear against them. 

The U.S. government is guilty of this. As a recipient of Social Security, I am well aware of governmental intimidation tactics. This occurs across the board, and it will happen no matter who we vote into office. The Social Security Administration uses people’s fears to keep us from becoming too ambitious. If you fail to show up for an examination, whether it is medical or monetary, kiss your benefits goodbye. I have been interrogated by a Social Security employee. It is by intent that contact with them for any purpose will bring up fears. 

Donald Trump: a multimillionaire-turned-politician who, in large part, commands through fear. He caused many nominally responsible and ethical Republicans to jump ship. Only those fully loyal are allowed. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “This is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.” Although I’m quite bothered that Ryan spoke both names in the same breath, it shows me that with Trump, we are dealing with something sinister, and something that could send the U.S. over the edge. 

Trump has nearly full command of the Republican Party, largely through what people call “rule by fear.” If a Republican politician in Congress opposes Trump, it signals that they will soon be leaving politics. Trump can either frighten them enough to make them resign or ruin their chances of re-election. The outcome? They’re gone. 

This is not the way our government was intended to work. Congress must be free of fear from whomever is president to function independently, and make its decisions based on its constituents’ needs. 

Ryan surprised me by speaking up about Trump because I’d always thought of him as one of the bad guys. But let’s think of this in terms of degrees. Do you want an unfair democracy with a vastly immoral wealth disparity and an unjust system of laws, or do you want Emperor Trump and his successors taking over, eliminating all civil rights, jailing or assassinating anyone who disagrees openly with the government, eliminating freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and all freedom, and wiping out those “crazies” who supposedly don’t have a right to exist?

Many Americans and foreign leaders dread what will happen if Trump regains the office of President. This is reality-based fear. Yet, it also mobilizes many, many people to create opposition. Trump is not one man—he is the figurehead for a large segment of people in the U.S. who have been fooled and conned by lies, fabrications and distortions. There are millions of Americans who support Trump, and that’s what makes him have power. 

Unfortunately for Planet Earth, Donald Trump has a lot of appeal and can put on a great show. There are many readers who probably won’t be happy with me for writing this work that opposes Trump. That possibility could enter many people’s minds when they set out to criticize Donald Trump: ”Will someone come out of the woodwork and come after me, if I openly oppose Trump?” 

If you are afraid of where the U.S. could be going, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are afraid of another Trump presidency. We all need to speak out—even when we could be afraid to do so.  

Jack Bragen is a writer in the East Bay, and author of several indie books available on