Relax, don’t do it

Posted on October 20, 2010

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Why is everyone so freaked out anyway? I’m not naive, I understand, a free and open civilization like Americas’ naturally leads to a few crackpots on the fringe but c’mon, you gotta admit, its gettin kinda kookoo out there. A few nuts running around like their hair is on fire is fun, it’s entertaining. When a third of the population, several million Americans are doing it, it’s frightening. I’m a life-long news junkie; I see it in cable, national and local news and yes, to an extent it’s been there for years, a sad but accurate reflection of human beings as a society. We all rubberneck.
When I was a working journalist people would ask me all the time,’ Why don’t you do positive stories?’ I would always be honest at the inquiry and say, ‘Because you wouldn’t watch them if I did’. I’m sorry but its true. The Average Joe/Jane doesn’t watch/read/subscribe/click/email/forward /twitter/post/re-post /chat/share or, using that most primitive of media, actually talk about good news. And don’t go blaming technology or the dreaded media for that. You can bet the ancestors of Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann, the town criers in ancient Greece didn’t yell about PTA bake sales or anything else remotely sunny or happy or positive.
But in the last few years the doomsayers, the crackpots on the fringe have hijacked the national conversation. The woeful whines of Americans have scaled the highest heights; they’ve reached a crescendo, a thunderous apex, one the most cynical, the most jaded and bitter among us, couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. From politicians and TV pundits who sound as frantic, as unbelievably hysterical, as the world’s worst televangelist, to Grade-A, standard issue, perfectly normal, seemingly sane individuals whom I know personally.
The hysteria is everywhere and it’s not just on TV news and in the headlines either. It’s in the supermarket lines, in restaurants, at high school ball games and in churches. At the mall, in the gym, in class, on the job (if you’re lucky) and the unemployment office (if you’re not), it’s all you hear. We’re (America) screwed. Our kid’s version of the American Dream won’t be as good as ours was. Everybody in America, regardless of political affiliation, creed, color or sexual orientation, has suddenly gone Chicken Little, certain that the sky is falling.
Why? This is the U S of A folks. America, sea to shining sea and all that. We’re the country, founded by rebel immigrants a relatively short time ago, that became and has been the world’s only superpower for 20 years. The country that fought to free its slaves, that led the industrial revolution, that beat the Nazis and then the Soviets, the nation that put a man on the moon, the home of McDonalds and Wal-Mart and birthplace of Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Bruce Willis and Lady Gaga.
What the heck are we so afraid of? Do you know how many people died in the Civil War? Over 600,000. Ever hear about the labor disputes of the late 19th century? The US government sent in troops and mercenaries to wage war on American workers. It happened in cities across this nation, hundreds died, thousands were injured. Less than 50 years ago the civil rights movement and Vietnam ripped the country apart. Haven’t we seen worse? What’s the fuss Gus? What exactly is scaring the hell out of you America? From the original tea party that sparked a revolution to the Great Depression and 9/11, the USA has always come through the storms, the trials and tribulations and we’ve emerged stronger every time.
But ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ seems as ancient as the dinosaurs.  Ironic, considering how easily obtainable a Xanax script is these days.

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