There was a gunfight on the street a couple of blocks from our condo, and everyone is still panicked about it. As gunfights go, it was pretty special, with at least two cars racing down the street and people firing at each other from the windows.
I missed the excitement, though, because I was having dinner at an outdoor restaurant about 1,000 feet away and it was too nice a night to take cover. Yes, I noticed the news helicopters overhead and, yes, I heard the sirens as cop cars headed to the scene, but this is the city and you don’t run unless the perps are closing in on your 20.*
That doesn’t necessarily make me brave, although I won’t object if you all say I’m your hero. Rather, it’s a reflection of the fears I’ve chosen to focus on most and the ones I have exiled to the overstuffed attic in my brain. In other words, I’m just like everyone else.
Most of us have some kind of phobia that we picked up in childhood and a few of us go through a truly scarring trauma that affects our panic buttons, but we also choose the bogeymen to fear once we become adults. Almost without fail, what we’re afraid of says more about us than it does about the threats themselves.
I took part in a conversation a few months ago with a cop and a bunch of people I know, discussing the violence that seems to be running rampant in Chicago. Shootings are up, flash mob robberies are up, murders are way up, but the top concern of the people in our group was carjackings. Naturally. That’s because they don’t think they’ll be in an area where gun crimes are a big deal, but they all drive nice cars.
They might argue that they’re being realistic, placing their concern where they are most at risk, but “most at risk” is not really a thing. Their odds of getting shot are about 0.0000001% and their odds of getting carjacked are 0.00000011%, so we’re not really talking about the risk, are we?
For most of my friends and neighbors, the risk being victimized by random violence is very, very low; so low, in fact, that it approaches zero for most of us. That doesn’t mean we’re immune and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful, but we’re about 8 zillion times more likely to be hit by a car while we, or the driver, is staring at our cellphones than we are at risk of getting carjacked.
In spite of that reality, I know people who are afraid to come into the city for dinner or a show, but they have no problem walking through a mall parking while they and every driver are staring at their screens. Consciously or not, we choose our fears and, once we’ve made that choice, we fixate on any bit of news that tells us we’re correct.
That has been the prevailing theme over (almost) the past two years, as we scrolled through the menu of items to panic about in the pandemic. Am I afraid of Bill Gates or Donald Trump, new viruses or new vaccines, QAnon or government mandates? Am I more afraid of a ventilator or a bureaucrat, big Pharma or infected bats?
Because, really, whatever fear is driving me, or anyone, it’s our demon of choice. We can argue that our fears are realistic, and maybe some of them are, but they’re also a lot like our wedding vows. We choose on this day to live with this specific fear as our most beloved, and to forsake all others.
Absolutely, there are a ton of risks in this world and, one day, one specific threat will prove fatal to each of us. For most of us, though, it won’t be the one we dwell on every day.
We love using terms like perps and “your 20,” because it makes us sound like we’re tough and know what the heck we’re talking about. What other ways will we try to look much cooler than we really are? Subscribe now to find out. (10-20, btw, is police radio code for location.)
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.