Panic Attack!

     We love to panic. At least it seems that way, because we all certainly do it a lot.  Usually this thought crosses my mind around flu shot time, but it was brought up in conversation with my son more recently (of course.)

     My son has a tendency to watch the news. I don’t. But whenever he sees something panic-inducing, he comes and asks me about it. Now it’s the radiation thing. He was quite alarmed–which I’m sure was the point of the broadcast he saw in the first place. Now, before anyone gets their tail in a twist, I know that there are some major problems in Japan right now. It will take that country literally years to recover from this disaster. My issue is how we all feed, vulture-like, on the catastrophe.

     And who is it that feeds us the carnage that we so willingly swallow? Well, I hate to name names, but it’s the media.  How could anyone watch a news broadcast and NOT be scared to death? According to the news, we’re doomed. If the big C doesn’t get us, it will be the flu, AIDS, radiation, a terrorist attack, or a nuclear bomb. We may possibly be frying our brains talking on the cell phone. Our TV may be shooting invisible death rays into our eyeballs while we’re watching our favorite program (especially if you’re watching Nancy Grace.) I suspect my thighs are so flabby because the laptop computer I hold on my lap is sending some sort of radiation into them and vaporizing the muscles, leaving only the fat, which of course everyone knows is the most indestructible substance on the planet.

     So it’s no wonder that people have stress disorders and panic attacks and social anxiety. We live in fear, constantly bombarded by our own “trusted” source of accurate information, afraid in some cases to even go outside.

     It’s no way to live.

     I always try to explain this to my son, because though he tries to play it cool, I know that sometimes, he’s afraid too. How can you blame him? He’s just a kid–his brain hasn’t acquired a bullshit filter yet (and yes, this filter provides one the ability to both recognize bullshit, and also to coat outgoing information with it.) He sees a report on the news about how radiation is going to get us here in the US, and he believes that, and it makes him afraid. He doesn’t understand the terrorist alert system (who does?) and cancer weighs on his mind much too heavily for a child who is 11 years old.

     I think that may be my biggest problem with the whole thing. Our children cannot even be children. An eleven year old boy should not be worried that he is going to get cancer or blown up by a terrorists bomb. I live in the real world, and I know that these things are technically possible, but here’s a news flash–there isn’t a darn thing we can do about it. Those things were possible when we were kids, too. We are passing on these fears to our kids, and in a sense, robbing them of what it really means to be a child. Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.” While that may certainly not be true, kids need to believe that it is.

     One last rant (for now, at least.) Every year I have the following conversation with at least five different people:

     “Do you all get a flu shot?”

     “No.”

     “Why? You should get one. What if you get the flu?”

     “No.”

     I watched a news report about the swine flu last year, and the reporters were tossing around words like pandemic, epidemic and–I swear I am not making this up–the plague. The plague? Really? It turned out to not be that big of a deal, just like most things, but people stood in mile long lines to get the shots, they ran out (naturally) and the panic began. I know people who get the flu shot religiously every year, some of whom live right here in the same house with me, and they get sick every winter, without fail.

   There are some things in this country that are epidemics, but they don’t have a thing to do with the flu. Here’s a list of what qualifies in my mind: greed, stupidity, selfishness, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the government, infomercials, spiders, inflation, ugly clothes, rude people, and those galvanized plastic packages that toys come in, which require a torch and sometimes even explosive devices to open.

     So you see, we have plenty to worry about without even watching the news. So let’s all take a deep breath, calm down,  and let the kids go outside and play. I’ll be under the bed.

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