In Response to: Q&A: Ali Valenzuela

Published online May 11, 2016

I very much enjoyed the Q & A with Professor Ali Valenzuela (Life of the Mind, March 16). He rightly states, “After 2012, Republican leaders concluded that they can’t win the White House without more Hispanic support …” The biblical story of the golden calf centers around Moses being late to return to the people from the mountain where he receives the Ten Commandments. They become anxious, fearful that he will not return, much as a small child is afraid his father won’t return from work. In response to their leader’s absence, the biblical people, to alleviate their anxiety, set to work on a new project, a golden calf to worship, instead of God. That, as we now know, did not work out well for them.

Are Americans in 2016 so fearful and insecure that we need someone or something to tell us that things will be (are) OK? That we need to make America great again? What does that even mean? Has an absence of leadership in the Republican Party created this anxiety? Studies show that fear, insecurity, and anxiety cause people to lose their ability to think clearly, and to make bad decisions. The unscrupulous prey on these fears.

What is the antidote? Maybe healing words along the lines of “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt). “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership” (Eisenhower). “Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God” (Reagan). “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (King).

Emily Lewis Penn ’77
New York, N.Y.