Tuesday, May 20, 2008

EDITORIAL: Rational vs. Irrational Fear

Fear can be good. Ten thousand years ago it helped humankind to survive from predators in the jungle where every sound, every movement could foretell danger and potential death. And when rational, it can yet save us today.

But fear can also be bad, because it can play upon survival instincts which are incapable of discerning between degrees of danger. And there are those who will use our instincts to mislead us.

Every moment of every day, millions reside in Manhattan and Washington D. C. with the recognition that that their lives can be snuffed out by the stolen or crude atomic device set off by terrorists. For forty years, the populations of the USA and the Soviet Union lived under the same real threat.

For most of us, driving our cars exposes us to dangers a hundred times greater than those posed by sex offenders, especially those who have spent years in prison, who are now much older and more responsible, and are being observed.

With the USA having the highest rate of incarceration in the world - even greater than the most authoritarian and repressive regimes - there are two million people in our prisons and most of them will be released one of these days. They work in ways that impact our homes and offices; they are the parents of friends of our children; they live nearby; and what we don't know almost invariably does not hurt us.

The good people of Conestoga and the rest of us need to learn to avoid being manipulated by our inherent fear, and by others. As FDR said during his first inauguration, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."