In A Climate Of Fear, Let's Remember To Breathe

11/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Ross Perot coined the phrase 'that giant sucking sound' during his 1992 presidential campaign, he was referring to the sound of American jobs being sucked into Mexico under NAFTA. Today, as Americans hold their collective breath to see what new horror the markets will bring, the giant sucking sound is more of a giant inhalation of fear. Fear that jobs will be lost, not just to foreign markets, but to the growing recession at home. Fear that our retirement funds will disappear. Fear that our homes will never again be worth what we paid for them. Fear of fear itself.

And just as fear is giving us respiratory problems, so is hope, in its way. As Barack Obama pulls ahead in the polls, his supporters are also holding their collective breath, afraid to speculate on the outcome, afraid to say it out loud, lest the polling Gods curse their arrogance and spin this thing the other way. I don't think I have heard the cliché about counting chickens before they're hatched quite so often in such a short period of time before. Or fearful references to "The Bradley Effect." Californians are especially worried about this, since they have seen this phenomenon firsthand when black mayor Tom Bradley lost an election despite a substantial lead in the polls, leading to the conclusion that people will tell pollsters one thing but do another thing (i.e. NOT vote for a black man) in the voting booth.

And so we hold our breath - out of fear, out of hope, out of helplessness. But at some point, we have to exhale. I came to my home town in the Colorado mountains this weekend to breathe fresh air under the golden aspens, to learn how to exhale once again. I highly recommend it, this breathing in AND out exercise. Even though Colorado is a "battleground" state in this election season, it is also a heavenly state in this fall season. Folks talk politics and financial crisis, of course, but the forces of nature are a powerful counterbalance. Last night, as I ate dinner with my family in the local café, I overheard the people at the next table talking about their concerns. "You have any frost yet?" asked one. "Yeah, my tomatoes are done for the year," said the other.

I'll take frost over fear every time.