But it isn't just them. Watching television last night, an ad ran for ADT home security. A woman and her child are awakened by a noise. They run to the box in the hall where a voice asks them if they are ok. They are thankful that ADT is "taking care of their family." Be afraid.
And our local weatherman is part of it. An ad that runs on our CBS affiliate caught the eye of the Daily Show because it is one of the scariest ads promoting a weather department I have ever seen. Be afraid.
Our culture seems to feed on fear, and in no area quite as much as with the children. (Here, I always hear Mrs. Lovejoy (from the Simpsons) constantly asking, "Won't someone think of the children.") One of my friends noted the other day how afraid he was to let his kids ride their bikes in his development. He noted that he rode around his neighborhood all the time at a very young age. But things are different, he said, and he really wondered. Hell, he noted, Halloween was scarier now because we are always worried about razor blades in the apples and poisoned candy bars.
So are we more at risk? Is our society in a moral free fall? Snopes takes on the Halloween story and points out there are no documented cases of anonymous tampering with Halloween candy. There aren't great numbers on child abductions (oddly enough) but the available data suggests that children are much more likely to be abducted in a family dispute or by someone they know than by that vicious stranger down the block. That study places the number in 1999 of stranger abductions at around 115 for the entire country. Roughly the same amount of people who are killed by lightening strikes each year.
Are there risks out there? Of course. But we have to do something about how our culture sells fear. We might start with our politicians. We can do better than these people. And while not an endorsement for the man, let me note that one politician declined to follow the Guiliani/Bush/Cheney/Rove playbook of scaring the hell out of us. Michael Bloomberg, when asked about the supposed JFK plot, noted:
'You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life. You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist.'
No wonder he left the Republican party. Now it is time for the Democrats to return to the days of FDR and remind us that fear is our enemy, not a campaign ploy.