Thursday, December 25, 2003


I know nothing about terror assessment. The last few days have been defined by an artificial color code whereby the government tells us that we are more at risk for terrorist acts, and that we should continue to live our lives as normally as possible. (this color coding is like a wind-chill factor but even more intangible).

Oh, and beef may give us mad cow disease.

I am not a big fan of Michael Moore, but he has a very valid point in Bowling for Columbine. We are a country that is obsessed with fear. And we crank it up at the drop of a hat.

When I worked in the governor's office during the early 1990s, the crime rate in Texas, like many other places, was dropping rapidly. But in Houston, where the media was particularly focused on how unsafe life was in that city, any horrific story became the obsession of the news and the city, to the extent that people became more afraid at a time when their lives were actually becoming safer statistically.

I'll never forget the day a fellow came back from a focus group of Houston voters and recounted a nurse who was in the group. She thought crime was so out of control that police should shoot bullets into the knees of criminals, maiming them for life as part of their punishment.

The truth of the matter is, that since 1945, the whole planet has lived under a possible curse of nuclear explosion. Governments for many years, including ours, have perfected the art of weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents.

Despite my third grade class nuclear bomb drills in the early 1960s, and the many folk who built bomb shelter in their back yard, our safety was not improved or strengthened by public fear. (Although the fears of public leaders was somehow strong enough to let us all muddle through so far, particularly during the Cold War).

Somewhere Americans thought that life included a permanent sense of safety from harm. We have a pretty good life. A wonderful life. A rich life. Yes, we have to be diligent about protecting public safety (and that is a separate debate). But meanwhile, laugh at the silliness of colors that mean nothing, and realize that there is no magic pill nor wand that can protect us 100% from the crazys of this world.

One's life may end by a drunken driver. Or from a building falling down. Or when one is in bed asleep.

And it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

Meanwhile, we gotta do the best we can. And lighten up a little.

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