Salem haunted my thoughts for days after leaving.

Not in a ghosts and witches kind of way, but in a pondering sort of way. Wandering through that charming seaside town’s narrow, history-full streets and seeing the most infamous aspect of its history written out everywhere I looked – most often as a tourism gimmick, sometimes as simply a memorial or reminder – highlighted to me the incredibly huge power of fear, and how it can rage uncontrolled like a fire, sweeping up and destroying everything in its path, only requiring one tiny spark to ignite.

It’s a sobering thought.

mainelyparadise-3Salem’s fear-fire raged through the town in 1692 and the haunting stories of innocent lives consumed by its flames are long in the past, but I feel like I see the same cycle played out in news headlines every week.

Fear is an incredibly powerful tactic used by religions, media, politicians, businesses — and sometimes ourselves — to bring about a desired change.

It breeds hate, violence, division, and destruction.

Love is an equally powerful force that brings about change, but without the destruction.

Fear draws lines; love blurs and erases those lines.

Fear focuses on what divides.

Love focuses on what unites.

Fear has the power to ignite a hysteria that causes us to demonize people who really aren’t any different than us.

And that’s a very scary thing.

Because we are all the same at the core — one big, beautiful mess of humanity.