a few months ago, i read bernard henri levy's who killed daniel pearl? i sat up reading late into the night thinking our world is a whole hell of a scary place.
then i read the culture of fear, barry glassner's treatise on how fear is manipulated by news outlets to create stories, by politicians to deflect controversy, and by the average citizen to channel common worry. glassner asserts that there is a culture of fear that we're all buying into. and that it makes the world seem a whole hell of a lot scarier than it really is.
after reading the culture of fear, i cannot look at anything without smirking and saying, ha! fear! naturally, in a snide british tone.
so i say ha! to fear. and then my mum calls and asks for the twelve thousandth time whether i have my bottled water for the 8.4. after half a lifetime in memphis, where our science books protected us from death during elementary earthquake drills and where we were inundated with stories of the indians watching the mississippi flow backwards, we know the 8.4 is coming. we've seen reelfoot lake. the city is braced and it is in no way prepared.
but we do have our bottled water. i have my bottled water for the 8.4, despite the fact that i now live in chicago, a city where the 8.4 would only rattle some glass on michigan ave. but it makes my mum feel better.
maybe this is a family trait. we like to fix things and we like to be prepared. i think a part of that does have to with living on a fault line, which it is generally believed is going to either take out your city or st. louis. a fault line whose activity could make katrina look like a breeze. that kind of knowledge would tend to set one a wee bit on edge.
and we are a little edgy. my grandparents grew up dirt poor during the depression-- my grandfather in arkansas and my grandmother in mississippi. it is a major point of contention that one of them had to have been poorer than the other. when we're all together, the conversation frequently turns into a poor-off.
we ate our cornstew out of cardboard boxes... you had cornstew? we couldn't even afford corn... we walked twelve miles to school, while your father drove that bus... my father only drove that bus because he needed the money and the brakes didn't work so we had to jump off and on. i nearly died every day...
my grandparents keep everything because after ten years of nothing, anything seems precious. they live amongst empty butter tubs, fabric scraps, and frozen vegetables. if the 8.4 comes, my family will be eating asparagus from "i can't believe it's not butter" bowls and wearing technicolor dream clothes.
i am nowhere near that prepared for anything. the only thing i own in bulk is glue sticks and bonnie bells. in the case of a scrapbooking or chapping emergency, i am set, though the likelihood of scrapbooking or chapping entering the realm of crisis seems slim to none. but sometimes a girl's got to prepare. so i say ha! to fear, then promptly display signs of panic.
since the holiday season is approaching and since i am historically deathly ill at every other christmas and also since i am living in a household with nothing but ibuprofen, yesterday i went to the pharmacy and stocked up. i prepared to be violently, dramatically, grotesquely ill in the near future and bought every single medication that might assist in recovery. plus some red nail polish.
the checkout lady was baffled. clearly i was perfectly well. and clearly i was purchasing medications to be administered as a final hurrah at someone's deathbed.
i was kind of embarassed by this. it seemed rather hysterical and silly. but then i called my mum and gave her the litany of the ways in which i was now prepared to be violently, dramatically, grotesquely ill. she sniffled (she's got the rhonthitis and sounds like scarlett johansson) and asked, worried, but do you have your bottled water? aha! fear.