This post might come as a surprise to some, or seem hypocritical to others, given my history of cynicism and prophecies of doom, but nevertheless I have to ask: How long can Americans subsist on a daily diet of fear? Will we ever become immune to it, callused, or will we continue to lap from the bowl of nightmares as long as it is full?
You know what I mean when I say this. For decades we've been told strangers would kidnap, rape, and kill our children if we so much as let them out of our sigh, despite the fact that the probability of such a horror has always been low and has only grown less likely over time. In the fifties, sixties and seventies we were taught at a very young age how to "duck and cover" (presumably so our flash-fried silhouettes would be nicely symmetrical). In the eighties it was AIDS and drugs, in the nineties it was -- shit, I don't remember. In the nineties I was in my self-absorbed twenties, I just wanted pot legalized.
As we approached the millennium it was the Y2K bug, and I think ever since that fell through the biggest bogeyman has been germs -- the phobia of which may have caused all sorts of allergies and weird brain chemistries in children. I know the list is much longer; these are just the first that spring to mind.
And now we have a new litany: immigrants, gays marrying, terrorism (ooh, is that a juicy one), socialism, Islam, fascism, activist judges, uppity Negroes in the White House, microwave popcorn, cell phones, Toyotas, lead in toys, increased taxes ... you get my point.
I'm not blaming this on Republicans or Neocons or even Tea Partiers (much), because I don't think it's political -- at least not directly. Even our local news channels love foreboding ads like, "Which shampoo you may use every day could put you at risk for spontaneous human combustion? Find out at 11."
Why? Do we get off on this stuff? Does it make our hearts race the way they used to when a pack of wolves chased or hairy ancestors up a tree? Do we just not know how to be content and realize that we live in an astonishingly safe environment? Are the media and politicians just pandering to our need to feel afraid?
I have plenty of worries, don't think I'm above it. But I like to think the things I worry about are things I actually KNOW something about. It seems like people are increasingly glomming onto conspiracy theories that don't even begin to make sense and spreading them about as if they were beamed down from the heavens.
I ask you, my fellow thinkers, why? Why do we allow ourselves to be this way? Do we perhaps need to introduce wolves and bears back into populated areas so we can have something REAL to worry about?