Vol. 9, No. 42
October 18-24, 2001
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Anthrax Hysteria: Getting a Grip on Fear

In downtown Washington this week, you’d have thought it was outdoor barbecue and picnic time.

Buildings on various blocks emptied thousands of people into the Indian Summer sun as authorities skidded up to conduct yet another field test of suspicious white powder.

Out here in Chesapeake Country, life turned nearly as chaotic. Police scurried about more than two dozen times inspecting the latest unfounded worry about curious discoveries in our daily lives. They were dispatched to the Millersville home of Anne Arundel County executive where (oh heavens!) a neighbor’s letter had alighted.

Meanwhile, a plane sat on a BWI runway while experts rounded up some spilled aspirin.

One question to ask is: Are we losing our minds?

We can imagine a gaggle of terrorists cloistered in, what else, a cave, high-fiving and knee-slapping as they aim their satellite dish to American stations. (“Yo Mohammed: Now they’ve evacuated Ma’s Cafe because Ernie spilled his salt.”)

Part of the blame goes to our brethren in the news media, television and radio especially. They deliver us minute-by-minute reports of anthrax scares but don’t stress how isolated these discoveries have been. Nor do they take the time to spell out how anthrax is not a disease that spreads or how the bacteria being found is not the scary type engineered to resist treatment.

We’re also growing a tad weary of the self-important bureaucrats in Washington who act as though the terrorists are targeting them and in so doing scare the pants off of their workers.

Out here in Chesapeake Country, we need to exhale and hang on to our sanity. Remember that we have good sense here. Recall how when we and others head east from Washington, blood pressure drops about the time we cross the Patuxent River and life is smooth again when we reach the Bay.

There are things to fear in this world and reasons to fear them. But capitulating to hysteria and hoaxes is not the path to good health and quality living. And feeding this climate can result in long-term heavy security permeating our lives in ways that damage the open society we relish.

In speaking of terrorists, a Chinese philosopher remarked that they hope that by killing one, they will frighten 10,000.

Let’s not let the villains accomplish that goal.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly