Since today is Halloween, it seems only appropriate to talk about what scares me. But I have three older brothers, so things like spiders and snakes … nah, no big fright there. There are some things, though, that scare the bejeezus out of me.
🍫 The possible extinction of chocolate. There’s a reason I try to avoid clickbait when I’m surfing the Web, no matter how enticing those headlines might be (and they’re usually false; they really like to claim some celebrity is dead/has a love child/is a crazed murderer and that you won’t believe what so-and-so did next). Typical of that, fears over chocolate becoming extinct are overblown; still, the idea is scary.
Climate change means that possible growing areas are shrinking (especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which produce over half of the world’s chocolate), so yes, there is a kink in the supply chain, but reducing our carbon footprint will help—even just a little progress is progress. Failing that, scientists are working on developing hardier cacao plants.
They know that separating people like me from chocolate is a dangerous proposition. Back to work, folks. Mama needs her Ghirardelli’s. And Godiva. And Russell Stover. (Basically anything except that fake stuff like Elmer’s.)
🤬 People who don’t question anything that comes from their side of the aisle. Some people (especially some commenters on the Democrat-Gazette’s website … or just about any newspaper) seem to believe that fact-checking is an evil Democrat plot (they also can’t say “Democratic,” which I’d venture to guess irritates grammar and word nerds more than liberals … my recently deceased cousin Mary Lou, who was an English teacher for decades, would probably smack ’em upside the head, and she wasn’t that kind of person).
That tells me that they’re either unaware of these things called facts that exist in reality, they can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehoods or—most scary to me—they don’t care. Pretty sure it’s that last one for a lot of these people.
When the truth doesn’t matter, it’s that much harder to get anything constructive done because people can’t even agree on the most basic elements of reality, even disputing the definition of “fact.” Partisans fudge the truth, regardless of what side of the aisle they inhabit, and we should welcome those who take the time to provide evidence of the truth.
Or we can just keep believing the sky is purple plaid with pink polka dots. I swear, I’m not laughing at you. OK, I’m lying. I’m totally laughing right now. Everybody knows you don’t mix plaids with polka dots.
🌪️ Storms. I’ve lived through my share of tornadoes, including a cluster that hit my community and surrounding areas when I was a kid.
I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when she turned around and saw one twister as we were running up the hill to hunker down in the church basement. That was the cluster with the tornado that picked up a family friend’s car and put it in the tree in front of her house. Luckily, she only broke her leg.
As an adult, storms are terrifying for other reasons. Will you have to repair holes in the roof after a particularly vigorous hail storm? Will you be throwing out fried electronics when parts of that big pecan tree next door fall on the power lines, causing a surge? And will you have to deal with fencing companies and chainsaw-wielding workmen when another pecan tree takes out your back fence?
And worse, what if your Internet goes out? How will we ever survive without access to cute kitties and puppies on the Internet? I must has Cheezburger!
🤡 Clowns. I’m not talking Pennywise from It. I can watch that because I know it’s not reality, and that his uppance will come (and Stephen King generally rocks).
Both Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgård did profoundly creepy portrayals, but I know that neither of them spends time in the sewers luring innocent kids to their deaths. Well, I’m pretty sure.
I’m talking about those other guys (no, not all) who’ve made clowns terrifying for generations. Serial killer/rapist and clown aficionado John Wayne Gacy was enough to tarnish the reputation of clowns forever (the same could be said for Batman’s Joker … and I wasn’t too crazy about the confetti-dumping clown who scared me when I was a kid either), but until Bozo, Clarabell and Ronald McDonald, clowns historically weren’t exactly happy-go-lucky.
Traditionally, clowns are tricksters (think Satan, Loki, etc.), and not necessarily innocent—Punch, who originated in commedia dell’arte, beat his wife and killed his child, for God’s sake. Benjamin Radford, author of Bad Clowns, told History.com, “It’s a mistake to ask when clowns went bad because they were never really good.”
English professor Andrew Stott of the University of Buffalo contends that you can probably thank Charles Dickens for much of this image with his dying drunkard clown from The Pickwick Papers. Thanks, Chuck, for the nightmares.
Most of this has been pretty tongue-in-cheek, but there is one thing that truly terrifies me in the wake of the deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the attempted bombings of critics of the president and CNN last week: demonization of the media.
We’ve witnessed people egged on by rhetoric aimed at Jews and the media, sometimes in the same breath. In talking about those events, one of the prime sources of much of that rhetoric blamed not the rhetoric itself, but the media, and yet again uttered those words, “enemy of the people.” He just can’t keep from victim-blaming. Oh, and making everything about him.
This is not OK. This is dangerous. I know fellow journalists who have admitted fear for simply doing their jobs. I remember the anthrax attacks after 9/11 and having to open all the newsroom mail in an offsite facility. CNN and others are having to do that now because of the bombs reportedly sent by a rabid supporter of the president. I remember the attack on the Capitol-Gazette in Annapolis not so long ago and how it pushed so many news organizations (including mine) to institute plans for dealing with active shooters. Because this is what kind of world we live in now.
The free press is not the enemy. It makes mistakes, as we all do, but reputable outlets correct those mistakes because the public has put its trust in them and because they are committed to truth. It isn’t the job of the media to tote water for a party; what is our job is covering the world fairly and accurately (which is one of the reasons so many outlets now publish recordings and transcripts of interviews with major public figures … gosh, wonder who might have prompted that). Just because coverage is negative doesn’t mean it isn’t true. (A hint for the guy in the White House: Don’t consistently do negative things, such as lie, name-call and bully. That will cut way down on the negative coverage. You’re welcome.)
Just as with the political parties, there are a few bad apples in the media. Most of us, though, are just doing our jobs.
That shouldn’t mean having to be afraid to come to work.