“The only thing we have to fear is . . . Let’s face it, folks, I’m scared spitless.”
So said Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.
Well, OK, he didn’t say that. FDR lived through the Great Depression, endured polio and world war, but somehow he didn’t live in fear, like we do in 2014.
How serious is the Ebola crisis? So serious that if something isn’t done soon, the census of talking heads that burst into flames on cable will exceed that witnessed at the height of 2010’s “War on Christmas.”
How much of a threat is ISIS to America? So serious that if something isn’t done about it, Sen. Lindsey Graham spontaneously will revert into a pile of charcoal.
Seriously, Ebola and ISIS are grave international concerns. Every one of us should be knowledgeable about them.
But should Americans be scared, as any number of self-dedicated noise-makers would have us be? No.
Have you noticed that the fear factor in American politics never really dips below Code Red anymore?
We are to fear grimy, germy Central American children dropped at our doorstep in desperate, heroic gambits by those who love them.
We are to fear Muslims in general, because, well, ISIS and al-Qaida are Muslim. And we’ve seen what they do.
We are to fear black teens in hoodies, particularly when they are bigger than they were in their elementary school photos. And, well, what else but menace could one possibly ascribe to a tall black male in a hoodie?
To address this threat and more, we are all well-advised to arm ourselves and “make my day” if necessary. And why can’t we have side holsters like Wyatt Earp did? After all, someone might drive up blaring a car stereo, or use a cell phone after the movie previews start, and we’ll have to respond.
Listen closely, and understand that fear is what motivates great gobs of our society and a lot of public policy.
Fear drives education choices and many attempts at school policy. School vouchers, aka “choice,” are advertised as “opening up competition.” Actually, they are a ticket for families to associate with those who, in private and church schools, reflect the homogeneity they crave.
Fear drives flight from diversely populated cities, exporting wealth to the suburbs, while the cities provide most of the services that make life in the suburbs viable. Fear and myth drive “school accountability” initiatives that demonize inner-city schools while exalting those out in the ‘burbs that are so amazingly skilled that somehow every grade-schooler arrives in a sparkling SUV.
Back to Ebola. Granted, that’s a jarring transition.
Our hospitals already had problems worthy of the kind of inquiry that possesses the 24/7 sirens of “medical news” at the moment. In 2011 alone, the Centers for Disease Control reported 722,000 cases of hospital-acquired infections. In the 75,000 of those cases, the patients died.
The newswise difference, apparently, is that those victims had “our” infections, and those things get passed around. Ebola comes from distant, sweaty bodies on the Dark Continent. Ebola isn’t “ours.” It’s “theirs.” Once upon a time, AIDS was depicted in similar ways.
Ebola’s death toll on these shores is 26 fewer than what one gunman exacted in one flurry of fire in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. It is 11 fewer than what one man with an AR-15 (purchased at a local sporting goods store) and 6,000 rounds of ammo (bought online) exacted in an Aurora, Colo., theater.
One would wonder — say, if one were from another culture — why nothing is done culturally to address the dangers that come at the end of a gun. But, of course, that culture itself is bred of fear of “them” and what “they” do. It’s why George Zimmerman, for instance, felt police were insufficient to police his world.
In sum, and in all honesty, what we have to fear is — well, fear itself.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.