I grew up (and remain) a Chicago White Sox fan. Back in the day (early 80's), the White Sox had a radio/TV tandem of (believe it or not) Harry Carey and a lesser known, flamboyant, bombastic color-man named Jimmy Piersall.
Piersall was a brilliant young player in the late 50's who had suffered from manic depression. His mother was routinely hospitalized as he was growing up. His troubled family life eventually manifested in Piersall, leading to his falling out and then coming back to baseball which he chronicled in a book called "Fear Strikes Out." Piersall described his stuggles, his challenges controlling his own fears, fears of failure, of inadequacy, and the intense reactions he experienced to those fears. The silver linings were, if there can be such linings, that Piersall found himself. He had a 14 year career in which he was a solid player, and one of (if not the finest) defensive outfielders the game has ever seen. But even more, by facing those fears head one, Peirsal was truly liberated, he could be who he wanted to be, he could say what he wanted to say (and did). He frequently said things critical of White Sox players if they failed to hustle, which really irked the players and management staff of the White Sox, but provided truly entertaining and truly insightful, thought provoking commentary for their fans. Piersal was comfortable in his own skin and never really looked back or was afraid of the larger world because he'd already slain his "demon." That was the essence of Piersal and the meaning of the title of his book.
Scroll forward 30 years and I am amazed and struck dumb by how fearful we have become. As a nation we sit perplexed/paralyzed with fear, fear of Ebola, of Isis, of rogue terrorists. I sit bewildered (not) at how the party of common sense and small government advocates for forced quarantine (needlessly) - a big government solution to a nearly non-existent problem (Ebola pandemic risk), but chooses to do nothing to handle mental illness (a far more pervasive problem which kills tens of thousands per year). I sit baffled by the fear we seem to have of ISIS, a movement which is in fact looking to establish a country, rule an area of (mostly) desert in western Iraq and eastern Syria. We are ready to use our one and only tool (killing people with military firepower) to try to scare the rest of the people in the area (the Middle-East) into "not getting in our way." We seem to think that fear will cause them to cease seeking their own goals/determination. Would it stop us? Did it?
I sit perplexed by how MSNBC spends 6 hours covering a shooting at the Canadian War Memorial, when the same organization spent 15 minutes covering a similar shooting 16 years ago at our OWN capital. We had the sense to keep things in perspective then, but have lost that perspective now, and not just fear mongering conservatives have lost it, liberals have too. I sit baffled by Darrel Issa, how he can, with a straight face condemn the CDC for not having fully complete guidelines on Ebola, whe he consistently has cut the CDC's budget to the bone. He wants perfection but doesn't want to pay for it. He (and those like him) are utterly unable (or more correctly unwilling) to apply a modicum of common sense to the situation and grasp that the CDC doubtless provided general guidelines which, in the face of application, needed refinement, just like EVERY policy needs, every plan needs, once put into action. Companies develop Disaster Recovery plans, then they test them, then they refine them. A failure in one part of the plan doesn't mean the people (or the company) are incompetent, it means they aren't capable of predicting the future or of dealing with every possible variable until they get a feel for what those variables turn out to truly be. The better question is, why would Issa choose, at this time, to desire to instill a lack of confidence in the ability of the government to handle something which he purports to feel is a serious issue? Is he looking to cause a panic?
The answer to all these conundrums is that they aren't really conundrums. We're afraid because we don't chose to apply common sense, it's easier to blame to be fearful, to DEMAND action, than to accept that in a world of unpredictable things, of lone rogue, crazy gunman, some things cannot be controlled. It's also easy to see that stoking fears of the ineptitude of government is easily done IF you know there really isn't anything you need to truly fear (as I'm sure Issa understood and understands), that you understand that so far, we've have 6 cases of Ebola treated in the US, four of whom were people who arrived/returned from Africa (one of whom died), the other 5 cases were treated successfully. We have 100 people die EVERY DAY to suicide. We have 30 people die EVERY DAY who are murdered. We don't fling poo in the air (at all) about any of that.
What's going on is nothing more than a campaign based on fear. We saw something similar in 2004 which kept an inept George W. Bush in office for four more grueling, painful years. Be afraid of Isis (terrorists), be afraid John Kerry can't handle terrorists (Obama can't handle Ebola), be afraid, afraid, afraid. Don't worry that you're being cheated by banks, don't pay any attention to the vast overspend on defense toys, don't worry about our bloated Homeland Security budget going to private companies, be afraid of a single gunman - so that you don't question that budget. Be a pawn, let the campaign of fear upon which we've struck win, or... be Jimmy Piersal, and speak your mind, question the idiocy, keep Ebola in the perspective it should be kept, which is someplace behind the local mill's economic trouble, or the local school closing - because while Ebola is scary, and has the POTENTIAL to be bad, that potential is a remote risk - I'm not saying it doesn't exist and shouldn't be dealt with seriously, in fact I'm saying exactly that, deal with it seriously - don't prevent people from fighting it in Africa or you WILL fight it here - unlike ISIS, don't lock people up needlessly, don't invite or incite panic - speak coherently, factually, practically.
We do ourselves a great disservice (as well as doing those who actually SERVE a disservice) when we imply they are incompetent, and say it from a position of profound ignorance and fear. We put ourselves in a position to be manipulated and to make very bad decisions. The trouble I have with Republican attitudes about wanting less government is that they only want it until there's a calamity, then they want FAR MORE than liberals ever want or wanted, then they (the Repubs) want and enact badly thought out laws, they enact stupid quarantines, they create dumb laws like Sarbannes-Oxley (a law intended to punish the leaders of companies like Enron, but which instead created a needless beurocracy inside large companies and which really holds low level staff accountable, not high level officers). They want voter ID laws to stop 15 people from voting fraudulently but which keep 100,000 people who are legal voters from voting at all.
Jimmy, where are you bud (I say that metaphorically, he's 84, living in Chicago, btw)? Where is his spirit, the American spirit of facing challenges head on, not with fear, but with resolve to do what's right? Where is the spirit and common sense of Will Rogers? We need someone like Piersall to tell Chris Christie he's a bloviating, headline seeking blowhard and to tell the rest of us to stop fearing our own shadow or it will consume us. Seriously.