Such scaredy-cats!

Spending time with fur-nephew Charlie always puts me in a better mood, especially so as the seasons change (though that’s more by the calendar than the actual weather so far; little dude’s been spending an awful lot of time on my heated throw as I work).

Right now he’s snuggled right up next to my hip. He’s such a sweet boy … when he’s not chewing on plastic or yowling to go outside.

But Charlie can be a scaredy-cat sometimes. When someone a yard or two over is using powered lawn tools, he’ll decide he didn’t really want to go out at all. (He only gets to go in the backyard for short lengths of time, with supervision, no matter how often he points out that other cats in the neighborhood wander everywhere.) He has a point on the lawn tools; leaf blowers, especially, can grate on the nerves. I have a leaf blower, but I don’t use it much (I’ve been really lazy about yard work).

Charlie did scare me a little Monday after he sneaked in to the guest room while I was grabbing something and he started chewing on the tape on a box (the little goblin loves to chew plastic, and that sound can be disturbing … and not as funny as his grooming noises).

Something you would NEVER see me do: cliff camping. Image by Sebastian Wahlhuetter found on Laughing Squid.

It all made me think about the pervasiveness of fear. We’re all afraid of something. I have acrophobia (fear of heights), compounded by a fear of falling; plus my vertigo is kicking up again, apparently as an after-effect of my bout with covid in January (I’m taking meclizine per my doc, and it seems to be helping at least a little, though looking for art for acrophobia didn’t help). Me in a stairwell is a laugh riot; hope you don’t need to get anywhere quickly, and not just because I’m fat and don’t do well on stairs. My fear of clowns has eased somewhat, so I’d say I more don’t trust them than I’m afraid of them. But still, ease up on the pranks involving clowns. There are more coulrophobics out there than you might think (thank you, John Wayne Gacy, Pennywise, et al.).

As I type this, I’m a little afraid that Charlie might decide I need to be paying more attention to him and trap my right hand under him because he needs snuggles now. It wouldn’t be the first time, and I don’t really type well using just my left hand.

Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where my dear friend and honorary cousin Dr. Earl Babbie is the Campbell professor emeritus in behavioral sciences (and who has a research center named after him there, the mission of which, according to the Chapman website, is “to address critical social issues through cutting edge social science research”), has for nine years surveyed Americans on their greatest fears, releasing the list around Halloween each year.

Weren’t me … Editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast on Tammany Hall corruption found on BuzzFeed.

The last survey showed that corrupt government officials were our collective greatest fear, though that fear has decreased somewhat from the 2020-21 survey. Considering all the weirdness that’s been going on the last several years (Jan. 6, indictments, etc.), it’s not surprising to me that people fear corrupt officials the most, but not nearly to the extent they did a year earlier (it was a 22 percent drop, from 79.6 percent to 62.1 percent; corrupt government officials have topped the list for six years in a row … make of that what you will, but I can easily think of a reason that would be a big worry that’s now declining). I’ve ordered the book “Fear Itself: The Causes and Consequences of Fear in America,” published in 2020 and based on the Chapman Survey of American Fears, so don’t be surprised if another column on fear is in the offing.

Perhaps another government-related category will make the top 10 next year: legislation for problems that don’t exist (I couldn’t find it among the more than 90 fears on the total list, but there’s always next year, especially with the number of legislatures trying to fight a culture war they started). Earl calls that “solutions without problems” (he has a website on the subject, Bathroom bills, bans on critical race theory in secondary and primary schools (which, thanks to people like Christopher Rufo defining it as pretty much anything that makes white people uncomfortable, overshadows the actual scholarship in an elective law school course that is not taught in elementary and high schools), book bans and other legislation are great for stirring up the culture war and making villains of people like librarians and teachers, but have little if any evidence of their need (other than making some people “uncomfortable”); meanwhile issues like mass shootings and attacks based on hate of “the other” are laughed off.

When you walk into Walmart and see guys like this wandering around, you worry that it might be another El Paso situation. You DON’T feel safe and protected. Editorial cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times.

Then again, there’s not as huge and loud a lobby fighting against those solutions without problems as there is fighting against even the tiniest reasonable law to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them (no, not everyone needs a gun, and no one needs an arsenal). But sure, put another gun in the holster while shopping for milk while denying that you’re doing it out of fear (in a firefight, most people will freeze, so the “good guy with a gun” is a dangerous illusion). Keep it up, and the only people in the stores will be people with guns and personal shoppers trying to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are and if it’s worth the $7 tip to get someone else’s groceries because that someone else doesn’t trust all these people carrying guns into stores.

Because we really need more fear in the world.

I’m not afraid of the bulk of the people culture-war bills take aim at. The biggest fear I have involving my homosexual friends is that I’ll gain too much weight and have too much fun with them (I have a lot of terrific cooks among my friends); I’ve yet to uncover the gay agenda either … I mean, other than live life, be brave, love friends and family, and have fun.

My biggest fear of my trans friends at the moment is getting sucked into Dungeons and Dragons and anime, though it would still be fun, at least the way one describes it; her posts on what was done on a D&D quest usually crack me up.

The librarians and teachers in my life are not the least bit interested in indoctrination, and they’re devoted to their jobs and the children they serve.

Part of the image on the “Arachnophobia” standee. I could have sworn the spider was much bigger. Image found on reddit.

Once upon a time, our fears were different and less hatred-based; we mostly feared dying, losing someone we love, and assorted critters that could possibly kill us. I still remember having to steer an arachnophobic friend through a movie theater without her catching sight of the numerous standees for the movie “Arachnophobia” that featured a large spider (looking at images of it now, it wasn’t that big, but it was still a spider, and I was happy to do it). I’m still grateful to the professor who watched my face grow paler by the second as classmates climbed the lighting ladder in TV production class (it’s about a story tall, if I remember correctly) and who took my acrophobic butt aside and excused me from having to attempt that.

I can’t recall having to steer someone away from a Drag Queen story hour, a lesbian, a Muslim (who didn’t even merit more fear than zombies on the fear survey) or Mormon or, God forbid, a library book. Maybe I just know more people who know that if you’re afraid of something or you don’t like it, you don’t have to take part.

There are far more serious things to fear than a man in a dress, wig and heels.

I think they look fierce and fabulous (and a hell of a lot better than a lot of us would look trying to carry this off). Image found on Miss Gay Arkansas America Facebook page.