It has been a long time since so many people were this scared. This is not the malaise of loose ends that came over some of us during Jimmy Carter's time. This is fear unlike anything since sensitive people believed that communism was on the march.
The red menace bloated in the 1950s after a vivid movie with a gloom-laden voiceover was shown in countless school halls and church basements. It was amplified for ego gratification and profit by countless riders of the purple prose. It scared hundreds of thousands.
This time, the feeling of peril has multiple sources.
Much of the country expects to die of the flu. People die every flu season, but other seasons passed without a noticeable increase in hand washing or panic buying of hand sanitizer.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
While half the country twists its elbow to its nose, the other half has decided that the thing we have to fear is flu vaccine. So young Murgatroyd will not get a shot. He will accept the risk of infecting the entire fifth and sixth grades. His parents have chosen for him to live free or die.
President Obama causes fear. He was behind the plan to poison families with vaccines until the drug companies hit production snags. Now he is trying to kill us by withholding the vaccines. On that topic, my wife says that I pay too much attention to e-mail this column brings in. She says that the number of people who think that Obama's liberal agenda includes imposing religious law, sharia, on us is too few to worry about.
Oh, yeah? How do you account for throng at "2012"? "It's not just California. It's the whole world." The Mayans predicted the end of the world for 2012. Nostradamus said so, too. There are also Web reports, censored by liberal media, about the Blessed Mother telling several people that the Mayans are right. Mary, Mayans and Nostradamus. A trifecta.
Sarah Palin knows, but they won't let her tell what she knows.
Why, do you think, won't she say she is running for president? The 2012 election will just be a waste of taxpayers' dollars.
Will the end of the world make Al Gore a prophet or irrelevant? His prophecy is a big liberal worry: ice bergs overflowing into Florida swimming pools. That sounds grim. Conservatives can obsess about how much money he stands to make by investing against the Doomsday.
What causes strong men to tremble, though, is bringing alleged terrorists here for trial and execution. Tough-guy images turn to cottage cheese at the very idea. Rudy Giuliani has walked the mean streets with nothing but a leather jacket and bodyguards, but he talks as if he might not leave home if the terrorists come to his town in chains.
Proving that even scary people can be frightened, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., named the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, "a homegrown terrorist attack." Is that homegrown like Timothy McVeigh or terrorist like Zacarias Moussaoui?
When fellow citizens get scared, they tend to do and say strange things. It was hard, years ago, for the unafraid to take the red menace seriously. Who could believe that people who write their E's backwards and h's upside down could rule the world? That attitude made the fearful angry and the angry fearful of crypto commies, Americans who had been born here and lived here all their lives, but weren't real Americans.
They had to be scared to believe that anyone who ever lived here would prefer to stand in line for shoddy merchandise when the department stores had it. Even trusted Soviet spies defected for the January white sales.
There is no vaccine for fear. The current contagion has to run its course.
What, me worry? I fully expect to be totaled by someone who is texting behind the wheel. And yet I drive a car anyway, too dumb to be scared.
THE PALM BEACH (FLA.) POST