Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2002 / 3 Shevat, 5763
Year of the frayed nerve
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | In the Chinese calendar, this is the year of the horse. In our calendar, we are saying goodbye to the year of the frayed nerve. From terror threats to eroded savings, we have worried about a lot of things this year. Alex Johnson, MSNBC.com correspondent, has written about our fears and loathing. Below, is a list of the things we worried about it 2002.
FEAR OF FLYING
"Now, even though the law says that your bags must be screened by electronic devices, a lot of them are still going to be checked only by bomb-sniffing dogs or by guards actually opening up your bags and going through them," says Johnson.
MAIL/ ANTHRAX DELIVERIES
In the world headquarters of MSNBC for example, people cannot get flower deliveries here. If someone wants to send somebody a floral bouquet, it sits on the loading dock all day until you go out and claim it and take it home. A basic thing like that changes our lives.
"In fact, if you want to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, for many newspapers, you can't do that anymore," Johnson adds. "A lot of them now accept only e-mail or faxes precisely because of that."
"I lived in D.C. for many, many years," says Johnson. "And I talked with a lot of my friends who still live there. Most of them were reduced to, if they needed to fill their car, they would get out of the car, put the hose into the tank, and then get back in the car and lock the doors until it stopped pumping. And then they would do this little sort of dance around the bay trying to make sure they weren't standing in one position."
Since stress is a cumulative problem, are we as a people are getting stressed by this accumulation of anxiety and fear?
"I think that's precisely what happened in 2002," says Johnson. "If you look at what happened this year and you look at the actual people whom these events affected, we're not really talking about most of America. Most Americans didn't get any mail bombs. Most Americans didn't receive an anthrax letter. Most Americans are not in the military and certainly are not going to be going to Iraq. Most Americans did not lose their jobs. Most Americans didn't get sick from something they ate. Most Americans didn't get manhandled at the airport. But the accumulation of the reports of all of these things bred a sense in, I think, a lot of Americans think that if I'm going to go outside my door, I need a guard with me."
We tend to relate to poignant stories, like the abduction and murder of several young kids last year - it doesn't matter that it's a statistical anomaly. Every parent felt it.
"In fact, the rate of child abductions has been falling consistently. And this year was the smallest number for many years," says Johnson. "One thing I think that may contribute to this is when a lot of these long-term events that happen every year- like shark attacks or child abductions -started up several years ago, we didn't have three 24-hour cable news networks bringing every detail to America."
THE TECH ECONOMY
2003: IS THERE NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP?
12/19/02: Rep. J.C. Watts on the Trent Lott controversy