clean-up day, marchipelago 19, 41 a.b.
remembering that episode tonight, i'm starting to understand why i woke up so afraid this
the question becomes why the hell is everyone else?
these closing lines of yesterday's entry have confused several readers. here's a rephrasing that i hope is clearer:
remembering that old "Twilight Zone" episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple St.," i'm starting to understand why i woke up so afraid this morning...
what i still don't understand is why so many other people seem to be feeling a deeper, more basic, and longer lasting fear which is driving them to undertake and tolerate such frightening activities in the first place.
when rod serling wrote that episode (first aired exactly 40 years ago this month), he was taking a not very subtle swipe at the abhorrent practices of sen. joseph mccarthy and his supporters in the preceding decade - practices which came to be known collectively as "McCarthyism."
McCarthyism ruined the lives and careers of many people with its unsubstantiated allegations of Communism, disloyalty, and "un-Americanism"; its declaring long ago involvement in the Spanish Civil War and support for our WWII allies, the Soviets, retroactively treasonous; and its development of a "guilt by association" and "you can't be too careful!" mindset.
as reprehensible and politically opportunistic as McCarthyism now seems, it did, at least, develop at a time when the US was locked in a life-and-death struggle with a Soviet Union armed with nuclear weapons.
the extremely troubling activities which i listed yesterday, in contrast, have emerged in a far different time.
i mean, we won the Cold War - right? so why is the Echelon Project being allowed to trample those laws barring such wholesale and warrantless collection of the private communications of Americans?
the crime rate has been dropping for years - so why the increasing passion for capital punishment?
violence in our schools has been decreasing for years, too, and teen drug abuse peaked over 20 years ago when i was in high school - so why have people become so hyper-sensitive to kids with nail clippers and Tylenol now?
teen pregnancy is down... the abortion rate is down... unemployment is at about its lowest level in 30 years... inflation is low... we're in the longest economic expansion in our history... there's virtually no serious foreign threat...
and yet in area after area of american life, many people seem fearful and worried and ready to take or accept some very odd, sad, and dangerous actions.
it reminds me of the "missing children" scare of the 1980s or the "satanic cult" scare of the early '90s, writ big. those earlier obsessions and fears dissipated when it was learned that the numbers of missing children were being grossly overstated (and most of the rest were being snatched by non-custodial parents and not Evil Strangers) and the discovery that - surprise, surprise - very few people are actually satanists.
no damage done, really.
but now fear seems to be popping up in many other areas of life - and it's prompting far more damaging and questionable reactions.
is it the way the media has taken to hyping everything these days from the latest anonymous bomb threat to a simple snowstorm? is it a result of our sources of information switching from in-depth perspective to fast, shallow, and dramatic presentation?
or is it a case of our fears expanding to fill a vacuum? do many of us simply have a need to fear and hate something, and if nothing big and worthy is around to fear and hate, we'll settle for the small and unworthy?
it wouldn't be the first time our national fear has soared out of all proportion to reality, of course. and McCarthyism wasn't the first example, either.
the reaction to orson welles' "war of the worlds" radio broadcast on halloween night, 1938, proves that.
so does the American reaction to our nation's entry into WWI. people back then came to fear and hate the kaiser so much, they took to clubbing their dachshunds to death. and then they started in on every war critic, anarchist, union radical, and (eventually) alleged Red they could find....
in 1910, some people committed suicide rather than face the horrors of Halley's Comet's "poisonous" tail....
as far back as 1798, fear of the french and their sympathizers prompted president john adams to sign into law the Alien and Sedition Acts which (among other things) mandated fines and imprisonment for anyone guilty of "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" about the president, congress, or the nation.
and before that there were the salem witch trials...
and that's just a partial list.
maybe the brain periodically generates random fear to keep the old fear-producing mechanisms working and tuned during those long periods when no legitimate external reasons can be found?
maybe the pressures and compromises of living in a densely populated society we didn't evolve to handle creates tensions, anxieties, and frustrations which eventually demand release in non-rational ways?
maybe humans are just nuts?
whatever the truth may be, the fears of my fellow creatures and the irrational actions those fears seem to be causing them to perform and tolerate certainly scared me as i awoke yesterday morning thinking about them.
and today - well, the fear of fear has been replaced by a hatred of hatred, of all things.
but i've spent enough time tonight trying to clog the collection stations of Project Echelon - don't you think?
i know, i know - i've not been very amusing the last few days. certainly little that i've written he today will stand me in good stead when i go try to renew my almost-a-jester's license.
sorry. i'll try to do better soon.
til then, here's the latest photo of my cat and me.
(or click here or here if you MUST know more about many of
the things that frightened me yesterday morning....)