Going to the source – not to the symptoms – of civic pain

Public anger can be misleading, Kevin Shinn writes, making it easy to overlook the real issues that are causing the problem and to get sidetracked by the symptoms demanding immediate relief.


Earlier this summer during a morning walk, a sudden pain developed in my lower right abdomen. It was an unusual pain, unlike any I had ever encountered. While I’m accustomed to dealing with a moderate level of pain in my work in a kitchen, I could tell this was very different.

The discomfort eventually subsided, and I carried on with my day-to-day work. But the stabbing pain would occasionally flare up and force me to seek medical attention.

It was determined by my doctor that I had developed an inguinal hernia and surgery was required to treat it. In the meantime, I was given a brace to wear to address the pain. It was an effective relief. So effective, I started second-guessing the prescribed surgery. I thought to myself, Maybe this will eventually go away on its own.

I was very wrong.

The pain got worse, even with the brace. I changed my tune and agreed to go under the knife.

Three months hence, I’m glad I took the pain seriously and addressed its source, and not just the symptom. I don’t hurt anymore.

Like dealing with pain in the body, pain in the social and civic setting can also be very misleading. It’s easy to overlook the real issues that are causing the problem and be sidetracked by the symptoms that are demanding immediate relief.

I think about these two questions often:

›› Does the outrage towards taking the COVID vaccine stem from a deeper root than uneducated stubbornness and denial of science?

›› Is the polarized resentment of the mask mandate more than an unwillingness of a segment of our population to be told what to do?

Regardless of what side of these issues a person takes, a wise citizen and leader will look further than the surface to understand a better action to take.

I believe the current response to something as simple as wearing a mask in public is a very good indicator of the source of a much bigger problem to address. The deeper issue?

What do my people fear?

Fear is one of the strongest human emotions. I turn fearful when the thought of losing that which is dear and important to me seems impending. And in anger, I will fight tooth and nail to protect it.

Wise leadership will recognize the fear in its citizens. Failure to do so will only create greater fear and subsequent responses of anger.

Fear is the source. Anger is the symptom. Treat accordingly.

A chef, writer, and entrepreneur, Kevin Shinn is a thought leader in Lincoln’s cultural, economic, and civic life. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.

Related Articles

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nancy Northcutt
2 years ago

Fear of losing that which is dear to me? My family is dear to me. My community is dear to me. Getting vaccinated is how I protect my family and my community. We have done this for generations. Until now.
I don’t understand selfish fear. I don’t understand fear that endangers those I love when, with a simple act, I can protect them. I don’t understand fear that is willing to sacrifice the health of an entire community. Maybe you can explain it to me.


After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507