In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, the New York Times ran an article titled, “Fear in the Air, Americans Look Over Their Shoulders.”
Really? Have we truly become convinced, as a country, that we are in CONSTANT danger?
The writer culled his quotes from the NY Times’ query to the public: “How often, if ever, do you think about the possibility of a shooting in your daily life?“ Naturally, the people who answered are those for whom this question resonates — many of them crippled by an all-consuming fear of random violence. But by running this piece, the paper seems to endorse the idea that this kind of thinking is normal, or even warranted — despite the paper’s own editorial on Nov. 27, False Alarms About a National Crime Wave: “The rate of violent crime, including murder, has been going down for a quarter-century, and is at its lowest in decades.”
When I spent 14 years on staff at the NY Daily News, my editor would sometimes remind me that people read the paper because, “They want to know what can kill them.”
But that’s not quite true. No one is writing thumb-suckers about the fear of heart disease. Only the most shocking and unpredictable deaths get this kind of treatment. And it reinforces the idea that simply by stepping out of your home — or, God forbid, letting your CHILD step out of the home — death beckons.
And then we wonder why parents get arrested when their kids play outside or wait in the car. If every single public place — the mall, the restaurant, the path from SUV to school door — is imagined as a war zone, all children are in danger unless constantly supervised by someone willing to stand between them and the psychopath’s bullet. So the story below is not just a “day after” feature. It is a dose of fear, poisoning the public with panic. – L.
Fear in the Air, Americans Look Over Their Shoulders
Bunched too close together. At places you would never imagine.
As the long roll call of mass shootings added a prosaic holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., to its list, a wide expanse of America’s populace finds itself engulfed in a collective fear, a fear tinged with confusion and exasperation and a broad brew of emotions. The fear of the ordinary. Going to work. Eating a meal in a restaurant. Sending children to school. Watching a movie.
Wendy Malloy, 49, who lives in Tampa, Fla., said she now worried about being caught in an attack on a daily basis, just doing what anyone does. “When my son gets out of the car in the morning and walks into his high school,” she said. “When I drop him at his part-time job at a supermarket. When we go to the movies, concerts and festivals. When I walk into my office. It is a constant, grinding anxiety. And it gets louder every single day.”
If you were not safe there, where were you safe? A common office party. That was everywhere. That was everybody….
Afterward, the letters to the editor that the paper chose to run about the piece only added to the idea that the people interviewed were a representative sample:
To the Editor:
In light of the attack in San Bernardino, I am compelled to re-evaluate how I conduct my daily existence. Do I get on that train alongside the passenger with the oversized backpack? Do I really want to go to that concert in the park this weekend where thousands of others are expected? Should I cancel my overseas trip scheduled for next summer and simply stay home?
It seems that these are now legitimate questions each of us needs to ponder, with potentially fatal consequences should one find oneself randomly in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it’s that randomness that is most disturbing of all.
MARK GODES, Chelsea, Mass.
If those are legitimate questions, I hope Mark also questions whether he should eat a bite of solid food that he might choke on, or walk downstairs, considering he might trip and break his neck. He’s right: Random death is something “each of us needs to ponder,” because it does soooo much good. – L.