Dear fellow Americans: We don't need to be so afraid.

I want to talk about the Republican debate. But first, we need to talk about "Shark Week."

Ladies and gentlemen, the star of "Shark Week!" Photo by Hermanus Backpackers/Wikimedia Commons.


Once a year, the Discovery Channel airs seven days of captivating, ostensibly educational nature programing that is, in reality, single-mindedly devoted to scaring the living daylights out of everyone who watches it.

It is — to put it mildly — the absolute greatest.

The slate for "Shark Week" includes dozens of sober-minded documentaries that nobody watches about the incredible variety in the global shark population and the conservation challenges faced by its dozens of endangered species, alongside a few pieces of terrifying horror porn with titles like "Bull Shark: The World's Deadliest Shark," "Anatomy of a Shark Bite," and "Great White Appetite" that everyone watches and movies like "Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives" about deadly sharks that don't actually exist but that you should be scared of anyway just to be safe.

From the looks of it, you would think sharks were going around eating thousands of humans a year with impunity, high-fiving their fellow sharks and dropping sick shark raps about all the bodies they've dropped.

The average number of people killed annually by sharks in reality?

Five.

Last night's GOP debate was a little like "Shark Week."

Ladies and gentlemen, the stars of the GOP debate! Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The nine top Republican candidates and the four in the undercard debate gathered in Las Vegas to talk amongst themselves (or in Chris Christie's case, to glare directly into the camera with the uncomfortably piercing gaze of a disappointed father). It was billed as the "National Security Debate," or, alternately, the "Foreign Policy Debate" — the sort of description that might lead one to expect a passionate discourse on the nuances of statecraft, or an in-depth dialogue on how conservative diplomacy might offer notes of contrast with the current administration's practice of the same.

Instead, the basic gist of the whole event was: Look out behind you! ISIS terrorists are coming to your house. Be afraid! Be very afraid.

Christie declared, "We have people across this country who are scared to death." Marco Rubio suggested that ISIS is "not just the most capable, it is the most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced." Rick Santorum, in the JV session, legit argued that "We have entered World War III."

The words "terror" or "terrorist" were mentioned 77 times in the main debate. 120 times if you include the earlier debate.

The candidates' ideas for defeating the extremist group ran the gamut, from dropping the same amount of bombs as now but bragging a little bit more about it, to carpet-bombing cities in Syria and Iraq to ensure that when we kill a few dozen ISIS operatives, thousands of innocent people who also hate ISIS die too.

And perhaps most plausible solution of all: saying the words "radical Islamic terror" over and over again until the terrorists presumably throw their guns into the sea in panic and turn themselves in.

Overall, the debate was really entertaining. And also extremely scary.

You can't really blame the Republicans for going whole hog on the terror threat.

A whole hog. Photo by abbamouse/Flickr.

Fear can be a highly effective political motivator. If you're scared, there's a good chance you'll blame the current president and be more willing to take a chance on the guy from the opposing party who promises to keep you safe.

And while the candidates' reactions may have been a tad on the severe side, the question they posed is totally fair game and worth talking about:

How scared of "radical Islamic terror" should we really be?

A memorial to the victims of the November attacks in Paris. Photo by Matthieu Alexandre/Getty Images.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks committed by Islamic extremists have killed an average of just over three Americans per year. Three people is certainly not nothing! If three people I knew died randomly and horribly, I'd be pretty upset — and I'd definitely put preventing more people from dying the way they did near the top of my priorities list.

However, here is a brief list of things you're more likely to have on your death certificate than "killed by radical Islamic terrorists" if you're an American:

It's not at all wrong to be scared of terrorism. The whole point of terrorism is that it's scary. It's violent. It's unpredictable. And it's committed by human beings, many of whom are quite terrifying. Every time some vicious jerk walks into an office party with a gun or sets off a soda-can bomb on an airplane, I launch into the same fear/panic/despair cycle that my therapist is entirely sick of hearing about.

But the fact is...

We've survived way worse.

World War II, an objectively really scary time. Photo via the German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

Put simply, America has seen some shit. We survived a political and military revolution, centuries of brutal human bondage, a bloody civil war, two world wars, legal segregation, a 47-year-long nuclear standoff with a global superpower, and four seasons of "Mind of Mencia."

When it hits the fan, we can be pretty stone-cold about shutting it down.

ISIS is certainly evil and pretty ho-hum about killing people. But the idea that the group poses an existential threat to the United States — like Nazi Germany or the nuclear arms race or slavery — is ... more than a bit far-fetched.

And the people who ISIS does pose an existential threat to? Many of the same folks talking tough on stage last night are pretty dead-set against letting them move in next door.

Words have real consequences.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

ISIS is indeed scary. It's totally fair to note that. ISIS also adheres to an extremist brand of Islam. It's similarly fair to point that out and debate what it means for how we fight them. But there's a responsible way to do that, and then there's this — the leading presidential candidate of a major U.S. political party arguing that ISIS's barbarism justifies barring all Muslims from entering the United States.

It's easy to forget that if you go around on national television blurring the line between "Islam" and "what you should be scared of," sometimes people listen.

There have been over 45 documented Islamophobic incidents in the United States since the Paris attacks in November, including vandalism, attacks on mosques, and straight-up physical assault — sometimes of children. While politicians may not mean to incite acts of violence with their anti-Muslim rhetoric, extreme fear can lead people to do things they otherwise wouldn't, hitting back indiscriminately at the wrong target in the name of feeling a little bit more safe.

Beyond that, it just kind of sucks to be scared all the time.

Here's what not-scared people can do! It's pretty sweet. Photo by SimonP/Wikimedia Commons.

I like watching horror movies. I can watch all manner of gruesome, terrifying torture and gore if I know there's catharsis coming at the end. But I resent it when people try to scare me in an open-ended way. 'Cause being scared with no hope for release is pretty much the worst.

Terrorism is scary and random, but it's not even close to the most pressing danger facing any of us on a daily basis. It's not always easy to internalize that — in many ways, it feels counterintuitive. But once you do, it's pretty easy to cease being afraid, or at least stop letting that fear rule your life.

Go out! Go to concerts. Walk through the park. Take a lap around the mall. Browse and don't buy anything at Brookstone.

Something bad can happen when you're doing pretty much anything. Every time you shower, there's a not-zero chance you could slip and die. Most of us still do it every morning — and enjoy it too.

So take a deep breath. We've been through this before. And we'll get through it again.

Photo via the FDR Library/Wikimedia Commons.

Remember the Great Depression? Probably not, if you're effectively navigating the Internet without the assistance of your great-grandchild. But it was one of the objectively scariest times in American history. Unemployment skyrocketed to over 25% (as a comparison, following the financial crisis of 2008 — the biggest U.S. economic catastrophe in recent memory — unemployment peaked at 10%). Millions lost their homes, farms, and entire livelihoods. Fascism was on the march worldwide, and many feared (and some hoped) the United States would be next.

In the midst of all this, at the beginning of the worst year of the Depression, brand-new President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped up to the mic and dispensed some sage, fortune-cookie-ready advice. Not "Pee your pants, everybody" or "Hide under the covers forever" or "Oh God, oh God, oh God" while rocking back and forth in a fetal position.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he said.

Though 80 years have passed since then, and there are fewer apple barrels around these days, the sentiment still rings pretty much true.

Because as a wise Jedi muppet once opined: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to..."

...a chill weekend at Comic-Con. Photo by Doug Kline/Flickr.

(Please, no "Star Wars" spoilers.)

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.