The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 26, 2001 Issue

Time to fear not

We cannot allow ourselves to be frightened by all the scares that bombard us daily

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Perhaps the most frightening thing about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States is how they have frightened so many people.

Despite the advice of Pres. George W. Bush that we go back to our normal lives, many people either refuse to or cannot do so.

Part of the problem stems from media overexposure, particularly cable and network TV news programs. It's important to remember how much cable news channels in particular depend on riveting news to attract millions of viewers. At other times, fewer than a million viewers tune into a particular cable news channel, on the average.

Thus, when the news captures the public interest either because it's important -- such as the terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S./British military response or the Gulf War -- or because of a celebrity -- for example, the O.J. Simpson trial -- millions watch, meaning higher ratings and ad revenues.

That means doing whatever it takes to keep people watching. For example, a headline saying "Two more Americans contract anthrax," will attract far more interest than one saying, "Two hundred seventy million Americans don't have anthrax." Both are true. And the media certainly are doing their jobs when they report new outbreaks. It's our response that makes the difference.

There's a story about a duffer who challenges the country club pro to a round of golf. All the duffer asks are two "gotchas." The pro, not wishing to reveal his ignorance, agrees. On the first hole, just as the pro is ready to swing his club, the duffer runs up from behind, grabs him around the waist and yells, "Gotcha." The rest of the match goes off without incident. The duffer plays his usual mediocre game, but still wins because the visibly shaken pro plays the worst game of his life. "What happened?" a friend asks the pro. "I couldn't concentrate," the pro says, "I kept waiting for that second 'gotcha'."

Sadly, we may have a second or a third or even more "gotchas" waiting for us, but we can't allow them to paralyze us.

As Pres. Franklin Roosevelt told Americans nearly 70 years ago when the Great Depression gripped the nation, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

Or, as Jesus often reassured his disciples -- and therefore us -- "Do not be afraid."

Yes, we need to be careful and vigilant, but that's been true since Cain killed Abel.

Be assured, life will go on, whether we choose to actively participate or go into hiding. The choice is ours, but the opportunities we choose to lose can't be replaced.

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