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A Little Less Hysteria Please

Hayden Hollingsworth
Hayden Hollingsworth

Is it just me, or do you notice that we seem to become unhinged with very little provocation these days?  To name just a few, think of the swine flu pandemic, now apparently on the wane even before anyone can figure out how to get the vaccine to those who might really need it.  Sad for those who have suffered and died from it, but it is a fraction of the numbers who die annually from seasonal influenza with nary a headline.

When the Powers That Be began to craft legislation that thoughtfully suggested we all should have a conversation with our physicians and families about what care might be appropriate when the light at the end of the tunnel is truly a freight train, the headlines read “Let the Rationing Begin!”

The government didn’t help itself (or anyone else) by issuing a report that mammograms and Pap smears have been greatly overused.  There are scientific data to support both and, as is true in any such study, there are countervailing opinions that also have merit.  Instead of a calm and reasoned comparison of the facts, we were treated to shrill and accusatory comments from everyone.  It was coincidental (perhaps) that these “rationing” thoughts were tied to pending legislation on health care reform.

To try suspected terrorists on America soil or to house them in federal prisons will surely invite an invasion from our enemies who must be exterminated at all costs; this from a television pulpit in Virginia Beach.  Any thinking person will identify such hysteria as beyond reasonable.  His willingness to inflame and incite panic transcends the bounds of good sense, yet he continues; and he’s not by himself.  The media, in all forms, seem unable to discern needed information from what will sell advertising time and excite their base.

There is good evidence that the Chinese are perfecting a pocket-size electromagnetic pulse generator which, as we all know, will disable every computer in the United States.  I just made that up; but you can bet such a story would not be hard to propagate and would soon create a market for shielding ourselves from the “impending EMP from our enemies.”

The AIDS pandemic will destroy the world; we’ve heard that before.  There is an asteroid on the way the size of New York State; it will happen someday.  Ebola virus is being manufactured in Africa for our destruction.  And speaking of destruction, have you seen any WMD in Iraq lately? What about those financial bubbles . . . they always burst, don’t they?

Why is it that we are so prone to reel at such thoughts with impending panic?  It’s probably because we have been there and done that, as the hackneyed saying goes.  For every one of the scenarios you can name one that was real . . . and just as devastating.  It has been going on since recorded history. Read of the serial pandemics of bubonic plague that killed hundreds of millions in Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries.  Spanish flu of the 20th century and wars without end are more recent memories.  September 11, 2001, a date that we will never forget, gives credence to any awful thing you can imagine.  We know it can happen and we, as individuals, can do little to prevent it.

What’s a rational person to do?  First of all, let’s try to be rational.  In most cases there are data to be interpreted by those who have cooler minds than the talking heads of television.  It may be possible that we have too much information but more likely it is that we react to what we are told in a more visceral way than is justified.

Obviously, I have no solution to our fragile tranquility but I will offer one suggestion:  Take a deep breath and be thankful everyday that the vast majority of the terrible things that we think could happen, never do.  If we can carry that thought beyond today, then Thanksgiving should continue with every sunrise we live to see.

By Hayden Hollingsworth
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