McAdams On: Perceived Dangers

This week’s news reminded me of many years ago when I’d been living in the city for a while. By “city,” I mean population: 260,000. I had moved there from an area thicker with jack-rabbits than human beings. A friend of mine from rabbit country had come to the city for a surgery. Most of what she and her husband knew of cities is what they heard in the news. He wore a holstered .44 across his chest.

When I moved to the heart of Manhattan, it was generally assumed I was descending into bedlam. I’d been warned that New York City was a seething cauldron of rampant violence, where I likely would become a set of body parts strewn about the streets. It turned out that New Yorkers remain some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The only crime I personally encountered during three years in Manhattan was the faux European air kissing. This could generally be averted with a blanch-inducing handshake.

Washington, D.C. was next. Every time I went back to Daylight Donuts with my dad and told his klatsch I lived in D.C., one of their number invariably recalled his singular tour of the city during which he witnessed actual streetwalkers. The Spirit of St. Louis is in Washington, D.C.; the Landowne portrait of George Washington and the Hope Diamond. But noo. . .

There wasn’t much left to mention when I moved to Los Angeles, except for people shooting one another over traffic infractions. The greatest real threat to female personages here appears to involve elective surgery. But there are crazies here, like there are everywhere, and every once in a while one of them unravels for no apparent reason.

It’s the absence of reason in tragedy we find intolerable, and the human desire to assign meaning to the irrational coursed through the media this week in the wake of the massacre in Tuscon, Ariz. The resulting national discourse was rife with blame and bloviation. It will die down, as always it does, while the better angels of our nature restore order.

Madness lurks within the human genome, but does not define it. It does, however, make for good headlines. Headlines, in turn, do not define reality but rather occasionally resemble a small fraction thereof.

May we now turn to healing.
-- Deborah D. McAdams