We live in a world where we are urged to be in a constant state of fear. Through the Internet we are bombarded with horror stories, most of which are true, but most of which we and our loved ones will also never face. Some people want us to be afraid of this or that because they want to use our fear to elect the politicians they prefer. Managing fear rationally may be the cognitive and spiritual challenge of our times.
So for now, I’ve decided on four things about which I am not going to worry:
One: Unlike 46 percent of Americans, I am not very afraid of a terrorist attack on Americans on American soil. Yes, it could happen, and in fact has, whether it was September 11 or a lone Oklahoma beheader or a jihadist attack on Fort Hood. But I am personally tired of being afraid of a bunch of ugly fanatics gripped by a culture of death whose greatest weapon to date was the use of razor blades to turn our jets into bombs to be used against us. I fly a lot, and I may go down with a plane someday, but I do not choose to worry about this. Plain and simple: I refuse to be terrorized by this kind of stupid, low-tech, hateful, temporary, small, ugly triumph. Yes, we need to take terrorism seriously, but we also need to realize that this is just not the same level of threat as a worldwide Communist empire pointing massive armies and nuclear weapons at the West. Refuse to be terrorized.
Two: Unlike 36 percent of Americans, I am not very worried that someone is going to take away your daughters’ contraceptives. (I personally gave up the use of artificial contraception in favor of natural family planning when I married in the Catholic faith; but fear not, the worldwide Catholic Church has no plans to invade your bedrooms and prevent you from using contraceptives if you choose.) And don’t worry that your employer is going to take away your contraceptives either. Worst-case scenario from the Hobby Lobby case, if you work for a small, privately owned family firm whose owners object to funding abortion pills, they may tell the government they object to paying for such insurance coverage. The government will inform the insurance company, which will then provide the coverage for free, because paying for birth control and/or abortifacients is cheaper than paying for babies. Don’t worry, anxious moms, you can sleep easy at night about this one.
Three: I am not afraid Ebola will kill me, my family, my friends, or anyone I know, or you know. It is good to take any infectious disease seriously and to test our capacity to respond to a deadly new virus from Africa (remember AIDS?). And President Obama is right that Ebola has to be contained in Africa, so the humanitarian aid we are sending should be increased, both for their sake and for ours. Personally, I do feel for those noble first responders from the EMT to the police who now have to worry, at least in the back of their minds, every time they pick up someone with flu symptoms that it might be something far worse. But this week a panel of infectious-disease experts — including Dr. Bruce Ribner, who led the Emory team that saved the life of the first Ebola victim in the United States — reminded us that if we want to worry about an infectious disease, we should fear the Enterovirus, which has killed five children already, or even the plain old flu, which downs thousands each year. Personally, I’m not even worried enough to have gotten my flu shot yet, although in deference to the anxieties of said noble first responders, I’m going to do so (and so should you).
Three things I still worry about:
First, a jihadist state getting the capacity to create nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and deploying them in the United States.
Second, after spending $250,000 to give my son a college education, learning that he won’t be able to find a job that allows him to support himself and a family. A new survey shows that 45 percent of employed college graduates of the class of 2014 with a four-year college degree are working in jobs that do not require a college degree. One in five college graduates (including those with two-year degrees) have more than $50,000 in debt. And just 49 percent of the class of 2014 are in a full-time permanent position, meaning that only about a quarter of the class of 2014 has a full-time job that requires a college degree.
Third, the things that divide us as Americans will continue to be portrayed and viewed as more important than those that unite us. As a great American once said under far worse conditions, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Or, as the world’s greatest Pole reminded us, “Be not afraid.”
— Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.