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PEACE: Foreign Policy & Terrorism | December 25, 2001



An Unpublished Letter to Los Angeles Times

& An Essay in My Christmas Newsletter 

As Vincent Price used to say, fear is the most primal emotion.

If not a phobia (an exaggerated fear of a real danger) or a paranoia (an unfounded fear of an imagined danger), fear is a healthy instinct, provoking an adrenalin rush, in the "fight, flight, or fright" syndrome. But we cannot find all the terrorists to fight them; and attacked at home, we cannot fly from them. So we are left to face our fears.

We cannot afford to underestimate our enemies, but we should not overstate the risks. Who is more foolish: The pacifist who cries, "The terrorists won't get lucky again" or the hysteric who hordes his supply of Cipro?

Because fear, like hope, is our attempt to deal with the unknown, it is impossible to know exactly what to think.

Take the other evening. I was reading at my desk, when a noisy plane flew low and slow overhead. A minute later, I heard a series of explosions; and looking outside, I saw the entire sky over Arcadia suddenly lit by a huge orange fire-ball! It turned out to be fireworks, but what did you think?

We cannot let the terrorists paralyze us with fear, nor should we quarrel amongst ourselves as we wait for the next shoe to drop (whatever, wherever, if ever it does). But even an ostrich doesn't really hide its head in the sand when danger approaches.

The media must continue to report the risks, without sensationalizing or sugarcoating them; and we will overcome the threats, both real and imagined. That's what adult Americans do.

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