When it comes to fear, do the math

Opinion: Editorials

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

What scares you more, ISIS or Bambi? According to a poll taken in December 2016, Americans are more fearful of terrorism than they've been since 9/11. In fact, fear levels in the U.S. have been rising steadily since the 1980s. This is ironic, if you consider we're living during one of the safest times in human history. 

There are real threats to our safety, like drunk drivers, but we fixate on remote threats like terrorist attacks and nuclear holocaust. This national epidemic of fear has underlying causes. Financial uncertainty is one because half of us are living paycheck to paycheck. My retired friends are worried they're going to live too long and run out of money. That doesn't make sense. Would they rather be dead than dead broke?

We're supposed to be the "land of the brave." What happened to the nation that faced down fascism in World War II and survived the Cold War? I've visited countries where terrorism is much more common. The people go about their business and don't let fear control their lives. 

These countries, though, don't have nightly news broadcasts scaring their viewers. Our media has certainly fed the fear frenzy. Think of "sweep" weeks, when the networks trot out stories about tainted food, dangerous toys and deadly diseases to hike viewership. 

The government has also been guilty of frightening us. Our leaders find the politics of fear to be highly-effective in winning elections. They try to scare us about immigrants. This has been going on since the days the Irish and Italians were considered threats. Now it's Mexicans and Muslims. 

They run political ads to scare us. Presidents from both sides of the aisle have resorted to this tactic. Occasionally, we get a president who soothes our fears but this isn't true of our current commander-in-chief. But patriotism doesn't mean we have to accept the government's warnings as gospel. 

Unfortunately, fear has become gospel for many. Parents fear for their children. Neighbors fear strangers. Gun ownership is soaring. Home security systems are in big demand. The massacres we suffer shake us up. Shootings in public places, like our own Constitution Court, are especially disturbing. It's frightening to read about crime in our community. 

When I was researching this topic, I actually scared myself. And I didn't even get to global warming. So I searched for solutions. One suggestion is that we overcome fear as individuals by having empathy and compassion for others. We can then strengthen the social fabric of our community by acts of kindness. 

In this respect, the people of Forest Park rise above fear. I come across countless acts of quiet kindness. For example, we reported how District 91 staff and students helped a family that was burned out of 1124 Marengo. But we weren't even aware that the administration, staff and students of District 209 helped out the other displaced family. Forest Parkers don't call attention to their acts of kindness. 

Forest Parkers aren't afraid to stroll the streets and they welcome new faces to the neighborhood. We're unafraid to act silly at parties like the Casket Races. Many times, we combine our silliness with an act of kindness, like raising money for a worthy cause. 

But to get back to the opening question: Islamist terrorists have killed an average of seven Americans a year. 

Collisions with deer annually kill 150 Americans.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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