More to fear than fear itself

By By Ryan Shattuck

By Ryan Shattuck

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — and online predators, and anthrax, and public speaking, and hippies, and air travel, and clowns.

We live in a culture of fear. We’re constantly warned that our toys have lead, our spinach has E. coli, and that our lesbian gangs have lesbians. We’re told to worry about the decline of bees, the increase of carbon emissions and the influx of McEverything. If we don’t fight the terrorists there, they’ll follow us home. If a teenager masturbates, he or she will go blind. If people eat Chinese food, they’ll also end up consuming MSG and/or cat. If somebody steps on a crack, his or her mother will injure either C1 or C2 along the cervical spine, thus resulting in back pain. If, if, if. Worry, worry, worry. You never call your mother anymore.

While the mass media play their part in keeping the public paralyzed in fear, the current political climate in which we find ourselves also uses fear as a manipulative tool. Is such fear justified — especially that of terrorism? Rainer Huck, a “freelance philosopher” (his words) and “full-time nut-job” (my words), recently ran for mayor of Salt Lake City, garnering an overwhelming 37 out of the 27,239 votes cast in the mayoral primary. In addition to the many opinions shared on his campaign’s website, he attempted to unnerve the Salt Lake City voter by sharing such lightbulb ideas as “Mass transit is also vulnerable to terrorist activity” and “A few employees with concealed carry permits would be much more effective in deterring… terrorist activity.” His fear is vindicated, as top military leaders recently revealed the top three targets for al Qaida terrorists to be the White House, the Statue of Liberty and TRAX.

They hate our freedom and commuters from Sandy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Safety Council, the odds are better that a person will die from heart disease (1 in 5), cancer (1 in 7), a car accident (1 in 84), suicide (1 in 119), a firearm assault (1 in 314), drowning (1 in 1,008), a motorcycle accident (1 in 1,020), fire or smoke (1 in 1,113), a bicycle accident (1 in 4,919), an accidental firearm discharge (1 in 5,134), a railway accident (1 in 6,842), excessive cold (1 in 8,389), excessive heat (1 in 9,396), accidental electrocution (1 in 9,968), alcohol poisoning (1 in 10,048), dying in the bathtub (1 in 10,455), a hornet or bee sting (1 in 56,789), legal execution (1 in 62,468), or lightning (1 in 79,746) than from a terrorist attack (1 in 88,000).

Odds are better that I’ll die from suicide? Perhaps I shouldn’t fear terrorists killing me, as much as I should fear me killing myself.

I recently saw the film “The Brave One,” starring Jodie Foster as an NPR-type radio host turned revenge-seeking vigilante, similar to the remake of the movie “Taxi Driver,” starring the host of “Delilah After Dark.” While I’ve seen films both violent and gory, I found myself uncharacteristically emotionally attached to this film and preempted an oncoming anxiety attack by actually walking out of the theatre. The film brought up in me old emotions I once experienced many years ago when I was attacked and beaten — similar to Jodie Foster’s character — while in high school. Like her character in the film, I recall being terrified of everything that breathed and empathized with her desire to protect herself. Unlike her character though, I decided I would no longer live in fear.

I’ve looked back on my life in the many years that passed since my attack, and I realize that to live the rest of my life in fear would have been to live a very handicapped, crippled and pathetic life (no offense to the handicapped, the crippled and Corey Feldman). We can live our life in fear of everything from carbon dioxide to terrorism or we can decide that no one can dictate our lives with fear in a Svengali-type manner — whether the media or the government.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best when he said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As for those suffering from phobophobia — the fear of fear — they’re on their own.

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