On Our Fears

by Rich Lowry

An e-mail:

Mr. Lowry:

Millions of Americans were – and are – nervous about flying in airplanes quite apart from the threat posed by Islamic terrorism.  Given the rarity of airplane accidents, you could say this fear is “irrational,” yet it is widespread and therefore quite normal.  It does not reflect a judgment on the airplane manufacturers or airline employees, but is a natural fear of being five miles in the air traveling at several hundred miles-per-hour.  We have all seen photos of the utter devastation caused when a rare plane DOES crash, and we shudder to imagine it.  And we all know that machines sometimes break.

So add the threat of Islamic terrorism on top of this pre-existing fear, and the reaction of Williams and (probably) most other Americans to the presence of young, male Islamic-looking passengers [for the record, not quite what Williams said—RL] is—again–quite normal.  In fact, I would not be surprised if the people who fired Williams share this same fear and just can’t own up to it because it is too threatening to their self-image. Psychological projection is a well-known phenomenon in Jungian psychology, and this may be an instance of it.

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