Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

January 15, 2013

We the People: Fearing Fear Itself

CROSSVILLE — A current political preoccupation is fear mongering. Many are convinced that Muslims are planning to take over the government by force. A puzzling number find that believable and buy more guns. Some fear that the government has gone bonkers and is threatening the freedom of everybody. Just why the government would want that is unclear because the people are the government.

There are individuals and movements that see socialism growing among us like fungus. A few are afraid of the decades-old ideas of Franklin Roosevelt. They thump their tubs to inspire quivering. It’s not always clear what alarmists are for, or against, or afraid of. But one thing is clear. There are innocent people who are easily led (or misled) by pronouncements from the fringe nuts of the world who are in hot pursuit of lost causes and self-serving ambitions.

Some threats, however, appear to be worth serious thought. There was a startling article in last November’s Atlantic Monthly. According to the Atlantic article, it is now possible for computer hackers who work with synthetic biology to cheaply sequence and rearrange human genetic material. A few years ago it was expensive to sequence DNA and manipulate it. Modifying DNA was used almost exclusively to cure diseases. Unlike bacteria which attack human organs and infect or destroy them, a virus enters human cells and replaces the cell’s DNA with foreign DNA and then reproduces the altered cell. That may create positive changes by producing modified cells to resist diseases. But hackers can also recreate modified cells to kill us and spread disease. We could become at risk for a pandemic because DNA sequencing and modification has been simplified and made cheap enough that anyone with a few thousand dollars and the right technical training can manufacture all kinds of deadly viral mischief. It would be safe to wager that enemies of our country are doing that very thing in small and clandestine laboratories in several countries. That is a real fear to be reckoned with.

So, where should we come down? On the dark side of humanity’s fear? Or should we follow the Pollyanna streak in our nature and pretend our world is always bright and sunny? Probably neither. Life is risky. It always has been. Our solar system and our universe are violent places. We could get hit by a wandering asteroid or comet that could cause tsunamis and release poisonous volcanic gases. All plants and animals could die.

Risk is a part of life. Politics can’t stop every catastrophe. Perhaps the most important thing is to learn more about the world and to consider our options rationally in the unlikely event of a huge catastrophe. We should make it a point to not manufacture fear or pass along what we know is not true just to bolster a political point. Humans have lived on the earth for thousands of years. The life on earth has been around for billions of years and probably will keep going for a long, long time. We should concentrate on finding more truth and cultivating less fear if we really want to find ways to work together to preserve human civilization instead of ending it.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014