Friday, August 03, 2007

Culture of Fear

I thought for the umpteenth time about this book the other day. Glassner's subtitle is: "Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things."

I mention this because I bought my plane tickets for The Toronto International Film Festival. I don't like to fly. Never have. Since 9/11 I've liked it even less. And my return ticket from Toronto has me flying guessed it...September 11th.

I flew of September 11th last year so that I could attend TIFF. I'd prefer not to fly....but if it means missing the cool films, well, you gotta go sometime. On the one hand, I'm one of those Americans who is letting the terrorists win by....well, you know, being terrorized. When I think about flying, I think that one of the most sucky ways to die might be knowing you were going to die in like an hour. This is irrational, and I know it, which is why I go ahead and fly when I have to (or where the alternative is not going to The Toronto International Film Festival). And, I suppose, if I thought about it, I shouldn't go to work, since the plane might fly into my building....but I digress.

Last month I went on my vacation, which included disc golf in six or seven new states, including two rounds in Minnesota, and yeah, I took a bridge over the river to get into St. Paul. Now, I like bridges. I think they are way cool. Driving through that mountain tunnel in West Virginia gives me the willies, and driving through the harbor tunnel the one time I drove into New York City gave me serious creeps. Bridges, though, just always LOOKED cool to me, so I liked driving over them and marvel at their engineering.

I suppose I ought to marvel at the engineering of flight instead of thinking about where I am and how unnatural it is that I am there (and how horrific my death will be if the laws of physics are temporarily suspended or if some air traffic controller has a bad day. I suppose I should think that I've had two near misses with bridges, relatively speaking (that one that got hit in Oklahoma happened the same month the Truffins and Morefields were driving through that state), but, well, familiarity breeds false security.

Now, I'd be the last to suggest we should just all stop going over substandard bridges (because then the terrorists win), nor would I suggest it is our duty to keep going over substandard bridges (lest the terrorist wins). I'm only saying that I've learned--SURPRISE--that fear is not a rational thing. How much of our lives our spent in fear of the exotic thing rather than the likely thing? Why do we not spend some of the energy we put into avoiding flying (or going over bridges or whatever phobia we cater to) into avoiding unhealthy foods or other things that might increase our chances of an unpleasant death?

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