April 28, 2009

Scare Tactics

I remember being instructed, when I was a kid, how to hide under my pint-sized desk in case of tornadoes or nuclear strikes. One was hopefully more likely than the other but even though I was reasonably wee at the time, I didn't quite get how a desk was going to help me in either situation. The desks weren't heavy and I sincerely doubted that they'd come in handy in high winds or nuclear fallout. But I suppose schools were obliged to teach us something about these threats, even if what they were teaching was ridiculous.

Later came scares about drugs. Then AIDS. Don't get me wrong. Neither of those were unworthy of the time spent discussing them. They both were - and remain - threats. But, perhaps, the scare was a little disproportionate to the possibility that I'd let either impact me.

Then all our computers malfunctioning and us left cashless after Y2k. Followed by duct tape and plastic sheeting.

After 9/11, people were justifiably freaked out. Leaving outside Washington DC, as we did, and dealing with the unique and stunningly eerie absence of planes flying overhead - with the exception, of course, of the near-constant Air Force missions overhead - it was hard not to be a little freaked. There was an undercurrent of paranoia, impending doom, that was completetly understandable though the conspiracy theorist in me thought that the hysteria may well have been fueled, at least in part, by the duct tape, plastic sheeting industries and mail irradiation industries.

Rampant mask wearing and avoidance of public transportation followed. Yeah, that SARS thing. And now we can welcome the swine flu to our ever-growing list of things to be frightened of.

Three and a half years ago, I'm not sure I put as much thought into these things as I do now. The simple reason? I've got kids now, kids with school desks of their own to hide under, kids who pick up germs from other kids, kids who could get sick. And that scares the hell out of me. So, while I used to pay attention to this stuff out of curiosity, I'm now keeping my eyes open to make sure my family stays safe.

How worried are you about this whole swine flu thing? And how much stock do you put into these "terrors of the year"?

Posted by Chris at April 28, 2009 6:31 AM

I don't know that I will ever get over September 11th. I'm still in the middle of it in many ways. My office building is four blocks from the WTC and directly across the street from the NYSE. I often get nervous when NYPD in riot gear is added to the regular strict NYSE security or when I hear sirens going down Broadway. What changed for me after? I'm a lot more paranoid and careful. I stockpile food just in case we are quarantined for the current "terror."

Posted by: MariaV at April 28, 2009 6:54 AM

The swine flu doesn't really worry me too much, although I don't know why they aren't at least spot checking people coming back from Mexico or what not...Why do anything preventative, lets just wait until it's full scare. *sigh*

As far as 9/11, A friend of mine worked at the Pentagon that day and we were frantic to find her for hours. I don't think it will ever go away. It bothers me quite a bit and I can't imagine how people in NYC feel if I'm this bothered by it living in New England.

Posted by: Dee at April 28, 2009 7:43 AM

I'm a little nervous about Swine Flu because I work with kids and we know their not always the cleanest or very good about washing their hands or not coughing in people's faces!
Husband and I are hand washing fanatics so hopefully that will keep us safe and I hopefully our son will stay healthy until he gets home from college in a 3 or so weeks.

Posted by: NancyJak at April 28, 2009 7:43 AM

This might get me shot or booted off your blog or something but I have some issues with the media and the availability of information. On the one hand - it's good right? Because when there was a swine flu pandemic 60 years ago we would have all had to wait for the 6 o'clock news or race to the library to look at an encyclopedia in order to get the facts. Now, all we have to do is Google. But...the constant access to information and the pervasive 24-7-365 media culture we now live in, means that EVERYTHING is such a BIG deal when maybe it doesn't have to be. That said - I am still on the fence about swine flu and trying to be less neurotic about it then I really am. However, if it's goat flu, that's a whole other story...

Posted by: Country Girl at April 28, 2009 8:12 AM

Not much stock at all, really. Bear with me; I'm about to sound like an asshole:

Mexico is not known for its hygiene. The fact that their population or that of other dust-based countries hasn't been stricken by strings of epidemics speaks volumes about the miracle that is the human immune system. The interesting thing about this strain of the disease is that it's very cancer-like, though not nearly as lethal. Like cancer, it's patient; it learns; it's evolved through genetic mutations to overcome its surroundings. Still, it needs to be noted more often than it currently is on the various fear-mongering news outlets that there have been a total of 40 cases in the U.S. so far with zero fatalities. AIDS and smoking are better qualifiers for pandemic status at this point.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at April 28, 2009 8:19 AM

I was worried enough that we canceled our July trip to Mexico..but not so worried that it's all I think about. I do think things like this are made to sound worse than they currently are and end up causing too much paranoia.

As for 9/11, that was justified fear after. But I am biased where that particular event is concerned.

Posted by: diane at April 28, 2009 8:20 AM

I've given up worrying. If Swine flu is going to rampage through VA there isn't anything I can really do about it, right?

We were taught to go out into the hallway and kneel down with our heads against the wall with a book over our head during tornado drills.

I also went through nerve gas release drills in 10th grade when I lived near the US's primary nerve gas storage facility in Utah. Good times...

Posted by: COD at April 28, 2009 8:30 AM

Well, considering that I still have family in Mexico (Tijuana, to be exact), and my mom and dad cross the border about every other week to see my aunt... Yea, I'm kinda concerned about this one. I have a message in to mom to call and let me know when the last time they went was and why in the hell they haven't gotten tested yet... because I know them that well.

Posted by: varinia at April 28, 2009 8:49 AM

Yesterday we found out that three kids at a local elementary school, one that may possibly have older siblings of Bridget's preschool classmates, has three confirmed cases of swine flu. Fun.

But honestly, I did a little reading and as far as I can tell, it's not fatal if it is contracted. So we'll watch her for fever or other signs and get her to the doctor ASAP if she has any but other than that, I'm not too worried.

Posted by: donna at April 28, 2009 9:03 AM

Hard core main stream media is sucking the life out of the WORLD. The end.

Posted by: Christina at April 28, 2009 9:08 AM

I'm not scared.

I mean - I'm worried I'll get the flu, but I don't think we will DIE from this.

Remember SARS? It was the end of the world and like 5% of the cases were fatal.

The regular flu is like that too.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at April 28, 2009 9:12 AM

I'm not losing any sleep over it, but I am keeping an eye on the kids. I try not to buy into the hype. Besides, if I was going to catch swine flu, I would have gotten it from my ex-husband! (ba-dum-bum!!)

Posted by: Rebecca at April 28, 2009 9:13 AM

Not very, to be honest. I think the media are doing their usual foaming-at-the-mouth over-reaction. There are two Scottish people with confirmed cases in a town about an hour away from where I am sitting, and reading between the lines, they both have a bit of a headache, are a bit achy and sniffly but otherwise fine! Anyway it appears this particular strain prefers adults between 20 and 50 rather than kids, or indeed OAPs. So it's US we should be worried about!!!

Posted by: Loth at April 28, 2009 9:42 AM

I think we need perspective. 30,000 people in this country die of the regular flu each year. The media loves nothing more than to whip us all into a needless frenzy.

Posted by: Writer Dad at April 28, 2009 9:42 AM

Not worried at all. It's the liberal media that's blowing it out of proportion. Look at it this way, more people died in car wrecks yesterday than from Swine Flu and no one is up in arms about driving slower. Sometimes I think we just need a reminder to wash our hands more.

Posted by: Knot at April 28, 2009 9:43 AM

Although I never jump on the media band wagon... Well, it is enough that cities around the country since the bird flu, have placed in their budget enough money to buy and stock med's to cover their workers to help in a crisis! So it is serious.

Just remember LOTS OF washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing and WASHING again...so just be careful...this is what sucks about being a parent...you worry!

Posted by: Gypsy at April 28, 2009 9:59 AM

When bird flu was the disease-du-jour I freaked myself the hell out worrying about bird flu. And I didn't end up getting bird flu. No one I know ever got bird flu. I spent a big bunch of time worrying for nothing (Not entirely the fault of the media: I'm kind of a worrier, by nature).

SO, to be honest, I haven't read anything about swine flu.

Posted by: sarah at April 28, 2009 10:06 AM

I think people are making SUCH a HUGE DEAL of this stupid flu. I am also convinced that I had it 2 weeks ago when my husband returned sick from Mexico and we were sick for the longest time with upper resp. problems and stomach and fever and other annoyances. Even if let's say, you and I get this flue thing, most people recover from it just fine.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at April 28, 2009 10:49 AM

It's a new strand of FLU. Get over it.

Also, eat more pork. That'll teach 'em not to mess with us again.

Posted by: oakley at April 28, 2009 11:12 AM

Every time I go to Mexico I get sick. So I've decided now, not to go any more!
Am I worried about getting it up here in New Hampshire? Um, not really. But if I hear of local cases, I would be more vigilant with the hand washing.

Posted by: Maribeth at April 28, 2009 11:30 AM

I woke up this morning to the news that a neighboring school district had one confirmed and two suspected cases of swine flu. Both it and a preschool that several siblings attend are now closed.

I'm still watchful, but unconcerned. I want my children to be safe, but I don't want them to live in fear. It's the same reason I'll make my daughter wear a helmet when she rides her bike, but aside from a couple rough days during the learning process, resist bundling her in elbow and knee pads.

Posted by: Becky at April 28, 2009 11:37 AM

since SARS was HUGE in canada, and it seems that swine flu might be too, i must admit, i'm a little scared. i mean, i'm not going to hibernate in my house or anything...but public transit might make me uneasy.

Posted by: ali at April 28, 2009 11:55 AM

When I was a kid I panicked over *everything*. That fucking apocalypse clock ticking closer to midnight. Every time a whacko predicted the end of the world on Tuesday. The coming invasion of aliens (seriously, I remember that being a prediction).

One day I was in full-on anxiety about some horrific war scenes on the TV news, and my dad calmly said "wars aren't any worse or more frequent than they ever were, you just get to see them spread out in your living room every night" (and now every hour). Somehow that was the right message at the right time.

Since then I still feel the anxiety welling up at every new horror. But I can talk myself off the cliff much better. To a large extent, life is about today (normal planning & vigilance aside). Don't freak out about that which you've got no control over (my self-dialogue)

What worries me now is that I can see the same kinds of worries accumulating in my daughter. How can I pass-on attitude?

Posted by: harmzie at April 28, 2009 11:59 AM

Me? Not so much. Not at all, really. I don't even believe in using anti-bacterial soap. Yeah, I'm that mom.

Posted by: Mr Lady at April 28, 2009 12:10 PM

I remember doing the desk thing too...which means it was being done as recently as the late 80s/early 90s, and that makes me laugh a bit!
I try not to worry about the swine flu and things like it, because so much of it is just media hype. But I'd probably be more susceptible to the hype if I had tiny humans to worry about, too .

Posted by: Heather at April 28, 2009 12:18 PM

I'm not too concerned about the swine flu. Here in the U.S., treatment is readily available. I'm glad the media has broadcast the symptoms, so now I can keep an eye on my kids, but I'm way more worried about my daughter being snatched while she roller-blades around the block than I am about her dying from, or even catching, the swine flu. The little everyday terrors frighten me more than these big things.

Posted by: Brooke Habecker at April 28, 2009 12:58 PM

i'm taking this very seriously. mainly because we are so close to 2012 and it takes a year or two for a pandemic to ramp up... so this could totally be the end of the world! heeheehee...

actually, i've already been so paralyzed worrying about flesh-eating bacteria and MRSA as a parent, that this aint no thang :)

Posted by: kati at April 28, 2009 1:23 PM

The hubby and I had a talk with our son, last night about germs and being careful around others. We are concerned.

It seems somewhat irrational, but we're worried. You interact with people constantly. At grocery stores, coffee shop, schools, work, parks, etc.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 28, 2009 1:54 PM

I'm worried about it in the "great, my kids will probably get it and bring it home to me" kind of way. Fevers, sleepless nights, sick kids, sick me. Again. UGH. And my ex-husband works in the tourist industry here in Las Vegas - so he'll be exposed, which will expose my youngest, and then me. What fun.

Besides that? I think it's media hype. I'm sorry people in Mexico are dying - but 40 deaths? Um. How many people die in Mexico every day due to the Mexican Drug Cartel?

Posted by: Mindy at April 28, 2009 2:06 PM

Until this thing starts hitting Cap'n Trips proportions I'm not worried. At all. This is being hyped up by the 24 hour news cycle. Yes, you should be concerned, but no more concerned than you already should be by the regular flu, botulism, gout, and carnivorous animals. Get your shots if you must, but let's remember that every Twitter update is not a newly reported case...

Posted by: croutonboy at April 28, 2009 2:37 PM

The media hype is feeding people's fear for the sake of sensation. It is annoying.


There are far more serious illnesses we get all the time (that stomach bug that went around a few months ago) and no one cared too much even though almost everyone got sick. Certainly no one closed schools and buildings. I think people are freaking out over nothing.

Posted by: jessica at April 28, 2009 3:14 PM

When we start hearing about young people dying because of cytokine storms, then I'll start worrying. I'm interested - okay, obsessed, actually - about this event, but hardly panicked. In any case, life goes on as usual in this remote corner of the country....

Posted by: bhd at April 28, 2009 3:29 PM

Not worried here, refuse to let myself be. As I have mentioned here before I do not watch the news, for a variety of reasons one of them being the "fear factor" I have no need for that, the other being the "tear factor" since I have not watched the news in my adult life when it did not make me cry.

Posted by: Kelly M. at April 28, 2009 3:51 PM

I like knowing about it, but I don't worry. There are like 300million people in this country alone. At 40 cases I'm not worried. Especially since it's treatable. And really I guess that's my thing. It's totally treatable now that we know it's a problem.

Posted by: Brad at April 28, 2009 5:05 PM

I'm following this story because we just returned to New Zealand by way of TX and CA. I think the media coverage has been a bit hysterical, and its scare-mongering may have caused some people to over-react. My wee post on the topic is up at http://juliryan.blogspot.com/2009/04/self-imposed-quarantine.html

Posted by: Juli ryan at April 28, 2009 5:41 PM

Swine flu? Whatever, fuck it. I've got research papers to write!

Posted by: Stephanie at April 28, 2009 6:49 PM

omg, i am totally cracking up because the entire oprah episode today is about flesh-eating bacteria and MRSA! hahahahaha. like i needed more fuel for my fears :)

Posted by: kati at April 28, 2009 7:20 PM

The elementary school a mile and a half from ours, in the same school district, is closed. They have one confirmed case of swine flu and two probable cases. We are getting daily recorded updates from the superintendent of schools. So I'm paying pretty close attention. I think this is the first time I've really paid attention to any of these things.

Posted by: Amanda at April 28, 2009 11:26 PM

I do think the world will see another pandemic in our lifetime. Am I worried about swine flu? Yes, in a weird, abstract way. But it's not changing my life. I honestly hate the news where you get the same sound bite 20x a day. No wonder people panic or blow things out of proportion.

Posted by: Mandy at April 29, 2009 1:32 AM

My family left El Salvador in the early 80s, before the war really hit its peak. But we were there for enough of it that I took in at an early age that no place is really safe. As a result, interestingly enough, I don't pay much attention to these terrors. I take general precautions against life's dangers, of course. I'm no daredevil but I don't worry or try to control the things I have no control over. I actually was amazed to realize just yesterday how little I know about the swine flu. I guess I just hadn't realized just how good my filters are for this type of thing.

Posted by: patricia at April 29, 2009 8:22 AM

I always try to take it all with a grain of salt. With the swine flu and things like that? Nothing beats hand washing, and teaching kids about good handwashing is just good practice in my book. bacteria can last on doorknobs and such for several hours. . . and you just don't know *who* was touching that grocery store handle 2 hours before you!

Anyway, if you want to seriously rethink 9/11, and the "engineering" of wars, etc. Try reading David Baldacci's "Whole Truth" its a quick read and a quite fascinating story!! While I'd like to think its all made up? I actually believe there is too much truth to it.

The only way I maintain my sanity these days is taking it all with a grain of salt and living each day to my best, loving, and being as happy as possible!!

Posted by: 3jaysmom at April 29, 2009 9:05 AM

A friend of mine saw someone wearing a face mask on the Metro this morning. I've yet to see that myself, but I think people are getting a little crazy too early.

Posted by: Zandria at April 29, 2009 6:50 PM