A Knife, a Walmart Birthday Cake and a Frenzy of Overreaction

Hi Readers — Over at CommonGood.org, I’ve got an essay about the family that found a paring knife at the bottom of the birthday cake they bought for their 2-year-old at Walmart. The teary-eyed father lamented, “We’re not going to get that second birthday back ever.”

Ohmigod–he’s right! How is anyone expected to recover from a blow like that? The family will NEVER get back a non-paring-knife-marred-cake-cutting-moment when their kid is two again! Naturally, that kind of thing is so unfair, so deeply disruptive to the natural order of things, that the dad said he may sue.

If you’re wondering what, for its part, Walmart did…I bet you can guess. Reminds me of what Applebee’s did after a waitress accidentally served a kid a cocktail instead of apple juice.  The m.o.? Wild overreaction, the touchstone of our age.

Once you look for it, overreaction is everywhere — in the Zero Tolerance stories of schools acting as if toy (and pastry) guns are real. In the post-Sandy Hook safety precautions, that act as if a mass-shooting is not only inevitable but imminent. In the recalls of safe products after a tiny flaw, or even non-flaw, has been flagged as a possible, 1-in-a-million danger. And in the  exhortations made on TV shows after any odd and unusual fate befalls a child, as if we now all must be on guard against that same fate all the time.  Overreaction leads us to fear more, ban more, and act as if we are under constant siege.

Even from things like knives accidentally baked into the bottom of cakes. – L.

Happy Overreaction Day, to You! Happy Overreaction Day. to You!


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