Terry Ahwal’s personal essay discusses the dangers of fear and the importance of controlling it to avoid the harm it can cause. The author supplements her call for overcoming fear with deeply moving personal examples from her life in the Middle East and the USA. Yet while the general point is laudable, Ahwal’s examples only concern fears of people and have little use in other scenarios.
There are two main points in Ahwal’s essay: fear is destructive, and one needs to stop perceiving people as “others” to overcome it. The author speaks of “devastation created by fear,” whether in depopulated Detroit or the USA in general after 9/11 (Ahwal). Her second point is best summed up with “it is fear we should be fighting, not the ‘other’” (Ahwal). Supplemented with examples from her life, the essay sends a moving message of cooperation based on shared humanity instead of fear.
However, this very message undermines the effectiveness of Ahwal’s text in helping to fight fear. The advice she offers in her personal story of being afraid of Israeli soldiers is imagining them “as people [she] knew” to stop fearing (Ahwal). Yet this recipe is of no use if someone fears something other than people. I can speak from experience that fear of the dark can be as harmful as the fear of people, yet it would be hard to apply Ahwal’s advice to it.
Thus, the essay sends an excellent message of uniting people through understanding rather than dividing them through fear. However, its usefulness in helping the readers actually fight fear is limited. Ahwal.’s advice works only when applied to the fear of people – yet there are other kinds of fear that are just as harmful, and their object is not possible to relate to and personalize.
Ahwal, Terry. “Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears.” National Public Radio, Web.