Friday, April 12, 2013

‘Fraidy Cat

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1st Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1933)


I’ve got a number of pets.

Including several cats.

One of those felines is utterly fearless.

She came to me, that cat, as a castaway. Literally, cast away by some cowardly waste of humanity.

I found her at my back door on a –20F Alaskan winter morning, a tiny ball of fluff damned near frozen to death.  Crying piteously, hungry, cold, and terrified.

Now, the very last thing I needed at that point was another damned cat.

I suppose the conservative thing, the prudent thing, the safe thing, to do would have been to shoo her away from the house with curses and kicks, send her back out into the Alaskan winter to find her own way in the world. Honestly, what did I owe this needy creature? I had my own problems, my own pets, my own cats already.

I’ve spent my entire life in war zones around the world, one more life – and an animal at that – what difference could it make to me?

As it turns out, I’m not the kind of guy who would leave a kitten to freeze to death – make of that what you will.

I spent some time and effort looking for her people, but it became obvious fairly quickly that she’d been tossed out of a car and abandoned to her own devices in the midst of the Alaskan winter.

And so, because there was no one else, she became my responsibility. 

For various reasons involving two large male cats already in residence, the tiny kitten couldn’t be let into the house.  So she made a home for herself in my woodshop and eventually grew into the fabulous world-renowned ShopKat, famous from one end of Facebook to the other. 

At first she was afraid of nearly everything, as all babies are, and spent much of her time hiding in the many dark nooks and crannies of my large cluttered workshop.

But very quickly she became fearless.

Howling woodworking machinery, the various loud shop vacuum systems, the chainsaws, the ATV’s when I’m winching logs into the woodpile or plowing snow, nothing frightens her.  She spends her time perched on top of running equipment, intently watching my various projects. Which isn’t to say that she’s a happy-go-lucky idiot or not sufficiently cautious, or overly dependent on me for protection. Alaska is a dangerous place for small creatures and the ShopKat is more than aware of that fact. You have only to watch her cautiously scanning the sky for bald eagles or carefully checking for bears before venturing outside the shop to see immediately just how aware she is – however, that said, ShopKat has been known to charge full grown bull moose, it’s the damnest thing you’ll likely ever see.  And she never, ever, goes near the road.

It’s four years later, and the ShopKat has become my affectionate and cheerful companion. She is the most singularly funny, intelligent, and amazing creature. She brightens my many hours in the shop, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t express just how grateful she is for a home.

And then there is the White Cat. 

Stupid, we call him, and the label suits him perfectly.  He’s pretty and decorative, but he’s just none too bright.  He and his brother, Tubby the Gray Cat, live in the house and never, ever, venture outside. And for very good and very costly reasons. As I said, Alaska is a dangerous place for small fuzzy creatures.

Stupid is afraid of everything

The vacuum cleaner nearly gives him a fright induced stroke. A sneeze can cause him to cower in the basement for hours. Loud noises, and not so loud noises, terrify him. He was once ambushed by a tennis ball. Stupid is afraid of his own tail.  He can start violently awake from a sound sleep in the middle of a quiet sunny afternoon, hounded by dangers only he can see, and race madly for shelter behind the wood stove or under the couch, peering suspiciously out at the world with wide terrified yellow eyes.

He cries piteously for attention, but when you reach for him he screams in horror and shies away, deathly afraid of being touched. 

If you try to pick him up, he goes completely rigid, legs and tail sticking straight out like an electrified statue of a cartoon cat made from barbed wire. He is at once both the most pathetically needy and the most spastically unaffectionate creature I’ve yet come across.

What is the difference between ShopKat and Stupid?

What makes one creature so utterly fearless and one so utterly fearful?

Is it just the perversity of cats in general?

Is it because one appears fantastically intelligent and the other is as dumb as a catnip mouse?

Is it nature or nurture?

Is it an accident of genetics? Happenstance? Or the natural extremes of a normal curve?

I have no idea. Cats are slaves to their nature and their nature is alien to human perception.

I do know, however, that fear can be learned. 

One of the (several) reasons I don’t want ShopKat in the house with Stupid and Tubby is that I don’t want her to pick up their fear, their everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that rules Stupid’s very existence. 

Because I know that fear can be contagious.

I’ve seen it, out there in the world, on the battlefield, in crisis. 

I know that fear can spread until people, like cats, become frightened by the slightest adversity, the smallest setback, the tiniest upset, until fear becomes habit.


The question is whether or not fear can be unlearned.

The question is if the habit of fear can be broken.



The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said.

It’s one of the most famous, and most recognizable, quotes in American history.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.




Trembling paralyzing bone chilling fear that keeps us from doing what needs to be done, fear that turns advance into retreat, victory into defeat, hope into ashes, cheerful resolute optimism into endless bitter pessimism.


Roosevelt sure got that right, didn’t he?

Eighty years ago there was plenty of fear to go around. The country was afraid, hell, the whole world wallowed in fear – and for good reason. It was the darkest hour of the Great Depression.  In America, the economy had collapsed, banks failed one after the other, ruined investors took to stepping off high ledges or swallowing bullets, entire industries vanished overnight, tens of millions were out of work, millions were on the brink of starvation, tens of thousands more were homeless or squatted in Hoovervilles, the Dust Bowl smothered the Midwest under choking clouds, mobsters with gats and tommy-guns fought pitched battles in the streets, crime and violence were everywhere, disenfranchisement, lynchings and cross burnings were rampant (and not just in the South). Across the sea, old governments disintegrated or were overthrown or fell into ineffectual chaos – and fascism took root among the ruins and the dark clouds of war gathered on the horizon.

And in that moment, a sickly bespectacled man, paralyzed from the waist down by the ravages of polio, stood on the East Portico of the United States Capitol Building and raised his right hand before Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and took the Oath of Office. 

And after he was sworn in, President Roosevelt turned to the gathered crowd, to the nation via radio, and spoke of fear. He called it out, that fear, as nameless, unreasoning, unjustified. After that first paragraph, FDR addressed the root cause of the nation’s misery and placed blame exactly where it belonged, on the unbridled avarice of Wall Street. Roosevelt went on to speak of unemployment and America’s role on the world stage and the hard work that lay ahead – but it was the line about fear that people remembered, and still remember to this day.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That statement made an entire nation stop and take stock of itself.

What Roosevelt meant was that while the nation – and the world – faced significant problems, all of them were manageable. All of the problems could be solved, overcome, beaten. The nation, the government, the people, needed to work together, they needed to roll up their sleeves and get busy solving the issues, instead of cowering alone in fear and panic and depression.

There were those who took Roosevelt at his word, they found hope and courage and they put aside their fear and went out and started fixing problems as best they were able. They weren’t always successful, but when they failed, instead mewling in fear and complaining that nothing could be done, they looked at that crippled man in his wheelchair and they remembered his words and then they just kept trying something else until the problem was fixed. Then they went on to the next thing. 

These people heard the new President’s words and they faced their fears and they went out and with the help of each other and their government they rebuilt the nation. They built the very things that define America today, from social safety nets to the national parks to the great public projects we take for granted every single day and can’t imagine America without.

Predictably, of course, there were also those who quailed in fear at Roosevelt’s admonishment not to be afraid.  They fell to gibbering fearfully about the New Deal and the government and unions and Social Security and the new Securities and Exchange Commission among other things. When they didn’t have something concrete to fear, they made up terrors to be afraid of like children paralyzed by an imaginary bogeyman in the closet – and rather than get up and throw open the closet door and face their imaginary dread, they spent the night cowering under the covers like my stupid white cat peering fearfully out from under the couch.

These people heard the new President’s words and they embraced their fears and then they went out and did everything they could to delay, hamper, and obstruct the government and the recovery at every turn – all the while directly benefitting from the very projects and efforts they decried, projects and programs and efforts that their children and grand children still benefit from eighty years later.

The more things change, right?

The same exact political parties and ideologies who were afraid back then are the same exact people who are afraid of the same exact things today.

Eighty years later, almost to the day, and they’re still paralyzed by the same nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.

And their fears are almost exactly word for word the same as those of their grandparents.

And if they don’t have something to fear, they invent things to be afraid of.

Case in point: in the previous post I mentioned Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart, who is afraid that straight people might enter into gay marriage in order to obtain health insurance.

"You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

Like this is a real thing.

Like this actually happens.

Like this is actually something we should be afraid of.

Like straight people actually get gay-married solely in order to obtain healthcare – and like it would actually matter if they did.

Like Georgians actually have this conversation: “Well, dang it all, Sue Bob, you know I love y’all and I’d marry you if’n I could and make an honest woman of you and your four kids by four other different men that you met at the bowling alley, but, see, my best friend Cooter needed that hernia surgery. And he didn’t have no insurance because that Obamer fella done ruint The Best Healthcare System In The World with that socialism stuff.  So me and Cooter, we got gay-married so my insurance would pay fer fix’n his balls. Bros before Ho’s, darlin’. Now me an’ Cooter was gonna get us an annulment right after the surgery, but the preacher wants us to try couples counseling first and see if’n we can maybe work it out…”

Yes, let’s all be afraid of that.

Because, yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Meanwhile there’s two married gay conservatives, Log Cabin Republicans I suppose, sitting around in their fabulous living room complaining about how straight people are totally ruining gay marriage: “Fine, fine. I don’t care what they don’t do in the privacy of their own separate and sexless bedrooms. Ok. That’s their right, if they don’t want to go to Hell, fine by me. Fine. But why can’t they just be happy with domestic partnerships? I don’t care what you say, if it’s two straight guys they can’t be gay-married. Gay-marriage is between one gay dude and another gay dude, damnit!”

Because, see, gay conservatives. Get it?

But I digress.

Because with all the problems the world faces at the moment, being afraid that straight people might be getting gay-married for health insurance is right up there with, um, well, you know, being afraid that gay people getting married will somehow queer your straight relationship.

Straight people might get gay-married?

Honestly, what the fuck?

Talk about just making up idiotic nonsense to be afraid of. 

You’ve got to reach down a long, long way past a whole lot of actual problems before you get to “Oh Noes! Straight people might get gay-married in order to defraud the taxpayers!”

And Jesus Haploid Christ, if they’re afraid of that, well then what aren’t these people afraid of?


Because, just like my stupid white cat with his little peanut-sized brain, they seem to be afraid of just about everything.

They’re afraid of the government. They’re afraid of the president, they’re afraid of congress, they’re afraid of the judges. They’re afraid of socialism. They’re afraid of Nazis and communists. They’re afraid of liberals and progressives and RINOs and feminists and Prius-driving vegetarians. They’re afraid of their neighbors. They’re afraid of the North and afraid of the South and afraid of people from Chicago, and New York and Washington D.C. and California. They’re afraid of gangs and crime and terrorism.  They’re afraid of know-it-all college educated long hairs. They’re afraid of political correctness and affirmative action. They’re afraid of minorities and they’re afraid of immigrants and they’re afraid of uppity blacks and strong-willed women and smart Asians and dirty Latinos and murderous Muslims. They fear their own supposedly loving God and they’re afraid of everybody else’s deity too. They’re afraid of the Rapture and the Anti-Christ and the End Times. They’re afraid of Sharia Law and they’re afraid of the Pope and afraid of the Jews – and yet they’re afraid of atheists too. They’re afraid of immorality and pornography and the internet and cable TV and that Rock&Roll music. They’re afraid of social media, they’re afraid of Twitter and Facebook and the bloggers and the Goddamned lamestream media. They’re afraid the military might just take over and they’re afraid that the military isn’t powerful enough. They’re afraid of death and afraid of taxes. They’re afraid of science, of evolution and climate models and plate tectonics and carbon dating and sex education. They’re afraid of abortion and birth control and the morning after pill, but at the same time they’re also afraid people might be having sex and they’re afraid “those” people might be having a whole bunch of welfare babies that they’re afraid they’ll have to pay for. They’re afraid of North Korea and China and the long defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They’re afraid that somebody might be coming to take all their guns and they’re afraid of all the crazy people with guns and they’re afraid that the government has too many guns.  They’re afraid of being poor but they’re afraid of the rich too. They’re afraid of the Bilderbergs and the Illuminati and the New World Order. They’re afraid of the the banksters and yet they’re deathly afraid of any laws that might restrict those self same power brokers. They’re afraid of losing their entitlements and they’re afraid the undeserving want entitlements too and more than anything they’re afraid that somebody somewhere might be getting something for nothing on the taxpayer dime, but they’re afraid of making those same “takers” pay for their own healthcare.  They’re afraid of chemicals in their food and genetically engineered crops, but they’re afraid of laws requiring that those same ingredients be fully disclosed by food producers because they’re afraid that might be bad for business. They’re afraid of obesity and heart disease and that our kids are a generation of blubbery little couch potatoes, but they’re afraid of Mayor Bloomberg and Michelle Obama.  They’re afraid of Hollywood violence and yet they’re also afraid that Sesame Street might be making their kids into prancing pacifist pisswillies. They’re afraid we’ll run out of oil or that some America hating dictator somewhere will cut the oil off – and yet at the same time they’re afraid of solar panels and wind towers and electric cars.

What it comes down to is this: they’re afraid of the past and they’re afraid of the present and they’re afraid for the future.

I could go on, but frankly this endless parade of depressing dread,  this nameless unreasoning unjustified terror, this fear of fear, is getting more than a little tedious.

For these people fear has become habit.

Their fearful grandparents were wrong eighty years ago and they’re still wrong today.

They’ve always been with us, the fearful.  They were here right at the beginning of the country, back then they were telling us how nothing could be done, that we’d better not make problems for Ol’ King George, that we should be afraid. And after it was over, after America had won her freedom, they were afraid to admit that they’d be afraid to join up in the first place.

They were here eighty years ago when FDR gave his speech, back then they were telling us to fear our neighbors and our government and the bogeyman in the closet, that the problems couldn’t solved, that the nation was done for.

And they’re here with us today. And it’s the same old fear. Yesterday, for example, instead of facing the problem of gun violence with courage and a will to find real workable solutions, a handful of cowards in the Senate attempted to filibuster the debate so they could hide from the problem. Because they were afraid. Case in point, Democrat from Alaska Mark Begich – who isn’t actually opposed to gun control, but who is absolutely terrified of getting thrown out of office by angry gun toting Sarah Palin worshipping Alaskans.  So much for principles. 

You can’t fix the problem if you can’t talk about it.

Hell, you can’t even define what the problem is, if you can’t talk about it.

Begich has just about as much fortitude as my white cat. He’s a long-tailed cat in a state full of Conservative rocking chairs. The look on his face yesterday makes me think he ought to be peering wild eyed out from under a couch.

The fact of the matter is this: There is nothing to fear.

None of the problems we face require divine intervention.  We don’t need to do a rain dance or beseech God to deliver us or to smite our enemies. We’re fully capable of solving our problems on our own. Asking God to solve our problems, to just wave his big magic God stick and make it all better, is a childish cop out.  It’s an admission of cowardice and an inability to face the world and roll up your sleeves and take care of business.

None of the problems require us to secede or for us to dissolve the Union or declare an end to the grand experiment.  That’s the coward’s way out.  Democracy takes courage and will and effort. Quitting takes none of those things.

None of these problems require revolution or taking our guns to Washington or shooting down our neighbors. Our ancestors rebelled against tyranny, and after they had won their freedom they designed themselves a system of government that was based on compromise, on flexibility, on courage and intellect and reason. They built us a system that could be changed without revolution, without war and bloodshed and killing our neighbors. That was the whole damned point.

Of the problems we face today, gun violence, North Korea, climate change, energy, the economy, jobs, all are solvable.  Every single one. Many of these problems have more than one solution. And if we don’t get it right the first time, we’ll keep at it until we do get it right – providing we face the problem instead of cowering under the couch like my stupid white cat.

Up above, I said that I didn’t bring the ShopKat into my house because I didn’t want her to be afraid, I didn’t want her to learn it from the other cats.  I didn’t want her to pick up the indoor cats’ fear, their everyday terror at mundane things, the nameless shapeless dread that defines their very existence. 

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the reverse might happen, that Stupid and Tubby would draw courage from the little fearless ShopKat and stop jumping at their own tails.

I don’t know.

It’s hard to tell with cats.

But, see, here’s the thing, we are not cats.

Fear, like hatred, is learned. And, again like hatred, fear becomes habit.

Cats may be slaves to their nature, but we are not – at least we don’t have to be.

We can choose.

In the end, you can choose to be afraid.

Or you can choose to be fearless.

It’s entirely up to you.






You can find the entire text of FDR’s inaugural address here, along with an audio recording. I highly recommend that every American read the transcript. If you didn’t know better, the world, the fear, that Roosevelt describes could be right here, right now, today.

As I said, the more things change…


  1. And yet they do not fear that which they really should fear and that is the psychopaths and sociopaths they consider their leaders.

  2. Yes. This. And let's hear it for ShopKat and FDR.

  3. In defense of white cats: I've never met a smart one; some were fearful because of deafness, or near deafness. Others seemed to have brain damage - inbreeding? Occasionally one behaved like a psychotic.

    That being said, there is no excuse for the kind of stupidity and fear I see in many of my fellow humans, except for an unwillingness to educate oneself in the ways of the world.

    White cats have a reason for being stupid.

    1. I had a very smart white cat, and she was fearless. Cats are who they are, individuals. People, however, can be led and mislead and manipulated. It's aided by a concerted effort to dumb them down enough, propagandizing news, banning teaching critical thinking skills and filling text books with dogma and revisionist history. Feel we need a tipping point, like FDR's Fear speech was, to cause a swell of determination that enough is enough and we're moving forward.

  4. Actually, I bet ShopKat would kick Stupid's round ass square. He ought to be grateful you don't bring her inside; she'd own the place in a week. Thanks for the feline lead-in! ShopKat reminds me of our eight-year-old tabby, who is indoor-only (we live in a big city) but likewise brave, mellow, affectionate, and a daddy's girl who tolerates all kinds of noise. That kind of cat is a very good judge of character, by the way - it says good things about you that she loves you.

  5. Excellently and eloquently put, as usual. Thank you Jim.....you shall receive "chocolate"!(no redheads available)

  6. This was quite lovely. It's a refreshing read.

  7. Fear, let's teach it to the next generation. When my daughter was five going on six and a bright outgoing child my father and his wife wanted her to come visit in California. No problem;; we put here on a non stop flight and they pick her up at the other end. And for the weeks in advance of the plane trip, which she is looking forward to greatly, these small town Wisconsin neighbors and mothers of her schoolmates would say to her, "aren't you going to be scared?" So since there were scared of California, airplanes, strangers, or anything outside of the town they grew up in, they were going totry to teach my daughter that fear as well.

    I told a couple of the biddies to shut the f#@k up and my daughter had a great trip!

    1. Stonekettle Station is a navy blog, you can say "fuck" here.

      You may also spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard.

      I'm just saying.

    2. I have no idea if the cat is a bastard or not, but my last dog was a bitch!

      (Yes, I signed my name to that - fighting the fear!)

    3. Ned the cat was most definitely a bastard, being named for the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly, but he didn't like being called one.

      There's an explanation of where that quote comes from, and who Ned is, somewhere down thread.

    4. (directed here by the always insightful Bruce Schneier's monthly cryptogram newsletter)

      My mother in law died a couple of months after we moved to Norway, and my wife flew back immediately. My 8yo daughter wanted to go back for the funeral, and the 6yo really didn't - so I wound up staying in Norway with the 6yo while the 8yo flew back to Australia by herself. She was never worried about it - just wanted to make sure she was on a plane with TV screens so she could watch movies.

      Everybody who hears the story acts like it's some amazing big deal for an 8 year old kid to travel so far. Three separate flights with two different airlines. 24 hours. She was fine. We coddle our kids far too much.

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you! So how come you're not in Congress? Or sitting on the Supreme Court? Or running the damn universe?

    I read the Republican Brain by Chris Mooney. He addresses some of these issues. Interesting stuff.

    And thanks for the ShopKat shoutout. We love that.

    1. Or writing for Salon or Rolling Stone or being a guest on Bill Maher?

    2. So how come you're not in Congress? Or sitting on the Supreme Court?

      I would think that the reason for my unelectability would be obvious.

      Or writing for Salon or Rolling Stone or being a guest on Bill Maher?

      Well, that is a mystery, isn't it?

    3. YES, I've done my own write-in campaigns to no avail. HALP PEOPLE!!!

    4. I just don't see Jim assuming the position of your average Congressman or Senator (aka "investment property"). On his/her knees, worshiping at the alter of the big money spigot. Tommy D

    5. Now, if you'd like to be on the liberal podcast Virtually Speaking, this might be arranged.

      (At least, if I can ever get Jay to answer my damn e-mails. Hmmmm...)

    6. Because he has better and more useful things to do? Also, Nazis.

    7. It'll be fine, there's a seven-second delay.

    8. I think you could be elected to the House. Might not work with either major party, but independents can win in Alaska.

      BTW, Jay did answer my e-mail. Prepare yourself…or not.

    9. I'll be honest here, I have absolutely no idea who Jay might be, I've never heard of Virtually Speaking.

    10. Jay is a politics podcaster; his show is called Virtually Speaking. No reason you should have heard of him; I just happen to know him. Podcasters are the audio equivalent of bloggers and, like bloggers, most of them have small audiences except when some major media figure gives them a shout-out.

      You can find out more about Virtually Speaking here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking

    11. Speaking of shout-outs, Jay linked you on Eschaton, one of the oldest and most widely read moderate-left blogs. Then Avedon Carol picked you up, and she's pretty widely read, too.

      So you have me to thank or curse as you wish. Ulp!

    12. I know why you don't run for office; you are afraid of running for office.

      [joke, it was]

    13. Jim, you might like the Mike Malloy show: http://www.mikemalloy.com/

  9. Wow, Jim, this time you really outdid yourself. I LOVED this! I feel sorry for your stupid cat, I almost think he may be hardwired to be that way. Maybe fearful people are that way too. Although a lot of studies point to lack of intellect (you DO call fearful cat "Stupid," after all).

    1. We call him Stupid in the most respectful manner possible, given the circumstances. He doesn't care, unlike ShopKat he doesn't understand English.

      Don't feel sorry for him, like any stupid pretty thing he's found himself a place where he's safe and well kept and nothing is expected of him other than he be pretty and dumb.

    2. Now you make Stupid sound like a typical member of Congress. Except Stupid is more honest, of course :).

  10. Wonderful as usual, Jim. I, too, wonder why so many Republicans are so afraid of women, men who don't look like them, people from other countries, our own government ...... None of those fears make any sense at all.

    Do you remember the song that goes "Paranoia strikes deep, into your soul it will creep." Good thing that I have Google, helps with older memories.


    It was chilling back then in high school, it's chilling now. We seem to have an entire political party using this song as it's theme. All we can do is keep plugging ahead, defying their irrational fears.

  11. I am so damned glad I discovered you a few years ago, you keep me sane (okay relatively sane, but I digress). The only thing I have to add here, is the unbridled greed of wealthy individuals and corporations ("corporations are people my friend") that are manipulating these dunces through unchecked influence. We could be living in utopia here, but no, we continue to give corporations and billionaires a free pass in this country and our own President is poised to be the first Democratic president to cut into Social Security.

    1. And we could be addressing global warming head-on.

    2. And with corporations being treated as "people", prosecution of money-laundering banks (HSBC/Standard Chartered)and Wall Street, not to mention BP, allow the individuals responsible to skate while their companies pay a fine and get a slap on the wrist. That is, IF they ever get prosecuted. Those who engineered the Citizens United decision knew exactly what they were doing.
      Of my 3 cats (all strays), one is the Mayor of Scaredy-CatTown and the 2 younger ones are more social & not easily scared. But they were well-socialized from kittenhood and the other was already a spooked teen when I got her. Too bad you can't "un-fear" a cat.
      Pam in PA

  12. Why is everyone afraid? Maybe it is:
    1. vaccines
    2. flouride in the water
    3. mercury in the fillings
    4. 60 Hz power lines
    5. 50 Hz power lines
    6. cell phones
    7. microwave ovens
    8. reading the scriptures
    9. not reading the scriptures
    10. chemicals in our food (what is natural food made of)
    11. too much education
    12. not enough education
    13. too strict parenting
    14. too lax parenting
    15. breast feeding
    16. not breast feeding
    17. starting potty training too early
    18. not starting potty training early enough
    19. the military defense estaqblishment
    20. no cumpulsory military service
    21. not following 'natural law'
    22. homogenized and pastuerized milk
    23. not enough fiber
    24. bad feng shui
    25. Windows (pick a flavor)

    I started writing the list, with a 'stretch goal' of ten reasons. I must be an over-achiever.

    Do not try to understand cats, just feed them and skritch between their ears. That is our purpose in life.


  13. I literally cried with relief after reading this. I cannot tell you how comforting it is to read something and realize that somebody else out there feels the same way I do about this unrealistic fear of everything, this self inflicted polio of the mind. Maybe FDR's physical paralysis gave him the ability to cut through to the core of problems, and lay out the solutions in a common sense way. Adversity does seem to give some folks insight and perspective rather than hand-wringing angst. I just wish I could put my thoughts down as eloquently as you.

    Mary Ann Blanton Boyce

  14. I have five cats of varying levels of stupid & fearful, so this really hit home. Fear is pervasive - lots of my friends are afraid of so many things--not just big picture items but even day-to-day stuff. But if you have face your fears you can accomplish so much.

  15. Not all white cats are fearful. My sister had a gray house cat that had an “encounter” with some type of wild cat. According to my sister, the “encounter” sounded like the end of the world. Her gray house cat survived and produced a pure white terror named Snowball. Snowball was the only cat I have ever seen climb up a tree head first faster than a squirrel and also climb down a tree head first faster than a squirrel. Snowball did not have to be fed by us, but we gave it food anyway. Snowball killed all the small creatures in our neighborhood. I personally saw Snowball do a 5’ vertical leap and pluck a bird out of the air.

    Snowball’s fearlessness caused its downfall. It dug up a mole’s burrow and ate the mole that had been poisoned by a neighbor. The neighborhood bully was not mourned. Fearlessness must be balanced by restraint if the creature is to survive.

    The financial leaders of our country are also fearless. They have bought the cooperation of our political leaders. They dictate the policies of the Fed (who is juicing up the stock market to the tune of $85 billion a month). This fearlessness makes them vulnerable. We had a chance to cut them down to size in 2007, but wasted the opportunity. The stock market bubble will burst and we will have another opportunity for change. Will we take it this time?

  16. Surely Ms. Everhart knows that one man and one woman get married all the time to provide health insurance to one or the other. They also get married to maximize pensions. The difference is a marriage based on financial issues rather than commitment issues, regardless of the gender of the parties. Or am I missing something?

    1. First wife and I stayed married an extra year to provide her with health care

    2. What I think you're missing, Anon, is that the Honorable (heh) Ms. Everhart can't take the standard hetero marriage of convenience and parley that into a tool for goading her fearful followers into braying stupidly about how teh gayz will ruin civilization as we know it. The Stupid Engine doesn't run itself, you know. Fill 'er up with Premium Phobia - now with more lead!

  17. A few years ago, a 17 year old taught me about fear. It was the anniversary of Columbine, and the rumors danced across the airwaves here that there was a retaliation planned. A lot of parents kept their kids home that day. My friend's daughter insisted on going, despite her mother's worries. Her mother asked her, one more time, just as she got out of the car, "Are you sure?" Her daughter turned and said, "It's a stupid rumor. And I refuse to live my life in fear." Then she marched into school.

    No shots were fired that day, and I regained a lot of confidence in her generation. I guess her mother forgot to teach her about fear.

    1. I dunno, it looks like her mother tried real hard to teach her about fear. But the daughter was too smart to accept the lesson.

  18. See, I'd be more scared about a lesbian marrying a gay man.
    Think of it.
    That's the only way you get more gays and lesbians, right?
    Straight couples can't produce gay babies.
    It just ain't in Jeebus' plan. It's only when that gay sperm hits that gay egg that you get a gayby.
    Look, I came out, at the age of 18, in 1972. I'll let you do the math.
    Had a wonderful life with my partner, who I lost several years ago, for 20+ years.
    I've been hearing this drivel since I was knee high to Tommy Tune.
    I expect to be hearing it until I'm somewhere over the rainbow.
    Every time one of these 'fraidy cats makes an ass out of him or her self I think maybe, just maybe, this will turn the tide.
    All I've learned is that these cats have more than 9 lives.
    'Scuse me while I go take a nap on top of my John Deere.

    1. Straight couples can't produce gay babies.

      You, Sir, just won the internet for the day.

      and my sincere condolences on your loss.

    2. A gayby? Can't wait to use that one in conversation!

  19. Another great post. You fill me with envy with your clarity and imagery.
    In a comment above you said of Stupid, "Don't feel sorry for him, like any stupid pretty thing he's found himself a place where he's safe and well kept and nothing is expected of him other than he be pretty and dumb."
    This gets to the heart of the motivation of the people I know who let fear control their lives.
    The only thing they really fear is change.

    1. Exactly. But then "fear of change" is the very definition of the word "conservative," isn't it?

    2. When I think of the really hard core conservatives I've known and the pace of change today, I get a glimmer of understanding for their desperate attempts to impose their rigid world view on everyone. But I also think of all the poor species that no longer exist because they were unable to evolve.

  20. We had a wonderful border collie/shepherd mix dog who was afraid of footbridges, but nothing else except getting an unwanted bath. My Mom remembers watching some kids across the street plotting amongst themselves with their firecrackers while Bart was in the front yard. She knew what they were up, but she also knew something they didn't: some things didn't scare him AT ALL. Well, they tossed the firecracker at our yard thinking it would scare him and he charged the fence instead, raising cain, and they ran instead. They left him alone after that. She was so proud of Bart. He should have been a police dog, after all this was a dog who ran outside to bark at the thunder when he was young. How dare those clouds make noise outside his house, right?
    I am constantly doing battle with my evil little fears. They have held me back as a human being for so long, but now that I am of a certain age, I have developed a wonderful sense of defiant indifference to them. I do things now that I would have been to shy to do when I was young. Fear is a poison and that's how I treat it.

  21. Another excellent post!!!!!!

    25 years ago, I married my husband because filing joint tax returns would save us a lot of money.
    I firmly believe that as long as the reason isn't coercion, it is no one's business why 2 people decide to get married.

    It is hard to comprehend the fear that permeates the GOP. And as far as they are concern, it is everyone's fault that they are scared.

  22. Outstanding post, Jim! The GOP/Teabaggers sure have perfected the art of wielding fear like a club in order to demonize any efforts toward REAL progress which is what this country desperately needs. And so we tread water instead of doing something we are fully capable of doing. Once they push that first bite of fear & paranoia down their followers' throats, it becomes their entire intake and pollutes their outlook on everything. Thanks for eloquently pointing out that we can be the country we were back then if we believe it's possible. Too bad you can't preach this to everyone else besides the choir.
    And you SHOULD be a guest on Bill Maher! He has enough of the fear-mongerers as guests that it makes me grind my teeth and yell at the tv. I would like to see you join him in taking them down. Work on that, wouldja?
    Pam in PA

  23. "We can choose.
    In the end, you can chose to be afraid.
    Or you can choose to be fearless.
    It’s entirely up to you."

    But you forget. Republicans are most definitely NOT pro-choice.

    ...woof, who is too lazy to be other than Anonymous.

  24. I had a client years ago who was going to war -torn Djibouti to join her husband (already there and flying rescue missions). I asked : are you afraid?

    She said : why be afraid? I can stay here and be afraid. Where I go has nothing to do with it.

    Thank you K.M.W. for that. Grace, beauty and courage in a wide open package, generously shared.
    And ditto to you, Jim... although she was a little prettier than you. ;)

    1. Yep. Everybody is a little prettier than me. But I'm totally good with ruggedly handsome. Totally.

    2. Okay. I'll give you that. :D

  25. Damn straight - a truly standout bit of rhetoric. Perhaps the most ironic aspect is that those who suffer as you describe are similarly afflicted with the disease that doesn't allow them to consider any alternative, any prescription that would alleviate their fear. Theirs is an ineffable disability that is only relieved in 99% of cases by their personal demise, an end that they would actually prefer rather than give up their bias.

    It would merely be tragic if they could only suffer in isolation; regrettably, the effluvia they produce surrounds all the rest of us forcing the wearing of hip boots and waders as we make our own way through life...

  26. Amazing as always!! And of course, any time that someone has something amazingly profound to say, in my opinion, there is a RUSH song to go along with it...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNe2vTm7va4

  27. I love that it's terrible to defraud the government with straight people getting gay married for the benefits, but there is no one concerned that gay people may already be defrauding for the benefits by getting straight married.

    1. Or that straight people might be straight married for the same benefits ... some of the stuff these people come up with is insane. But in the case of our politicians, I do not, for one minute, believe that it's their own fear that motivates them. In the case of our politicians it's the power rush they get from inciting fear in others. The general public follows whatever they want because of the fear-mongering they do.

      Oh, and by the way ... *I* am a little afraid of that bat-shit crazy dictator in North Korea.

  28. Cats have the excuse of having small brains connected to huge eyes and ears; a guidance system to a killer's body. Most of their brainpower is dedicated to processing the input from their highly capable senses,and reacting to events in a unitary fashion trained by experience and instinct distilled to a set of actions that work for them.

    White cat may seem stupid, but he is just doing what experience informs him to do. Like most cats past kittenhood, he's just not very inventive or flexible. ShopKat is probably more reflective, but still limited by the learned reflexes of slightly more clever Felis Domesticus. When she starts to collaborate on Jim's essays, then she'll be exceptional.

    The fearful people in the essay, may seem like they have small brains matched with reduced capacity to see or hear logical input. Most mouth breathing, regressionist, principly GOP Cro Magnon types have simply trained their own brains to shut down major portions of rationality logic circuits. There is no binary to these people anymore.

    Their response to any stimuli outside of a narrow comfort zone of learned aviodance of "different" or "other", is based on the same unitary action of a little cat who has learned to be afraid of everything. They roll into a fetal ball and spew a mantra of FNC, Beck and Coulter inspired fear and hate, like a magical spell that will protect them from the demographic bulldozer bearing down on their sad little bubble.

    Personally I think mandated Soylent Green is the answer. But, who would want to eat it? Tommy D

  29. Outstanding. I smiled reading the bios of your several cats. My wife and I have two of our own now (our 17 y/o monster Milo having died a couple of years back) and your description of Stupid reminded me of our Dempsey.

    This piece was extraordinary stuff. I think too few people appreciate that the easiest thing to do often is to be afraid. It gives you the excuse you need to not try to learn, to grow, to take even the slightest of chances.

    Thanks again.

  30. timor huic omnia timoris

  31. On September 11, 2001, I was wearing a wig as my hair was just beginning to grow back from the chemotherapy I received for the treatment of my breast cancer. Ten days later I got on an airplane to visit girlfriends who had been so supportive during my healthcare crisis. I changed planes at Hartsfeld and landed at O'Hare - both airports eerily empty. Many who heard I still planned to make my trip asked me over and over "Aren't you afraid to be flying?" My response "I am still bald from my treatment. Breast cancer is my real threat!" I believe people fear the wrong things. Great column, Jim, one of your best.

  32. Replies
    1. Hi Bob - good to see you here! and I agree completely.

  33. All we have to fear is fear itself. And there is a lot of fear out there. So we need to fear that. Which increases our fear. Which we need to fear. So our fear is again increased. And so on.

    Unfortunately, it works sort of like that in real life, too. Fear tends to be self-replicating.

    Fear also often tends to be objectless: fear of the unknown, of the future, of change. Of the lack of order or control. That's why you have radical conservatives. thjese are the people that want everything to stay rigidly the same, and rigidly predictable.

    Faced with the unknown, the fear arises. But asked "what are you afraid of", who is going to answer with "I don't know"? So you must imagine some horrible consequence for the change you fear. I think that is what is happening with Chairwoman EverScared - do you think she ever really had a fear of fake gay marriages? (Maybe a fear of a movie being made about it. Oh, wait.)

    Self-replicating, objectless fear - you'd be crazy not to be a little crazy.
    Fear is the mind-killer...


  34. Spot on, as usual, Jim. It's this clear-headed, eloquent & and sometimes deservedly snarky writing that keeps me around the SKS. And cat pics & stories, hehe. Count me as 100% behind Jim Wright for Emperor of the Universe.

    "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total annihilation. I shall not fear..."

  35. and another outstanding observation of present day America...I couldn't agree more. I like to link the resurrection of the fear-hammer to the Rovians, george jr. and dickie C, those yet to be captured war criminals

  36. "You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

    I spent (ok, wasted) several hours over the course of a couple days trying to figure out what Dafuq she was on about. And then I realized, the reason she's making such a ridiculous argument is because nobody, and I mean NOBODY with a lick of sense is buying the "Cuz Jeebus said it's Icky" argument anymore. So now they're going for the "Everybody is a lying, thieving, cheater like I am." meme.

    They're just so ridiculous. What a shame even more fearful and pig ignorant people elect these gasbags.

    1. "Cuz Jeebus said it's Icky"

      Actually, Jesus never said a damned thing about it, one way or the other. What Jesus did supposedly say was "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and then he commanded people to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and clothe the poor.

      Why is it then that evangelicals don't put as much effort into doing unto others, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor, do you suppose?

      Jesus also supposedly said something about a mote, a beam, and an eye. But what do I know? I'm not a Christian.

    2. I, a lifelong atheist at 56, use "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" as my ten commandments. It's where morality begins and ends. I also like the Hippocratic oath part about "first, do no harm". So when I see people asking where atheists get their morality from, I need merely repeat the above.

      I don't need the fear of hellfire to keep me on the straight and narrow, unlike the religious morons.

      Rob In Cleveland OH

    3. Rob you could also go for Kant's categorical imperative: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law. It's the same as do unto other's, but if they are high falutin' types, they might find it, you know, more better special.

  37. Jim, love your ramblings (and they are truly much more than that) but "ambushed by a tennis ball" just hit my funny bone right this morning and I've been laughing about it for several hours.
    Thanks for helping to keep me sane.

    1. He was batting around the dog's tennis ball. He batted it across the floor and then chased after it. Before he could catch it, the ball struck the cat feeder, bounced into the air, and landed in the water bowl just as the cat arrived. The splash hit him full on in the face. He screamed in utter horror, leaped into the air, and ran for the basement where he hid for hours.

      I fished the ball out of the water bowl, dried it off, and put in back on the floor. But Stupid won't go anywhere near it.

  38. This was wonderful, and I also learned what the H. stands for. You did however leave out the tapdancing, as I utilize Jesus H. tapdancing Christ in most appropo circumstances.

    1. Or put him on the raft, as is "Jesus H. Christ on a rubber raft" that gets uttered with regularity...

    2. I usually use "Horatio" for the H. Makes people blink.


  39. At the store I used to own, I overheard 3 of my middle-aged women customers talking. One was boasting(!) about how she had terrified her daughter so that the daughter and family would neer leave New Jersey. The other two were congratulating her and asking how she did it. I went to the office to throw up.

    We've buried two children. When my 14-year-old wants to visit her brother in Oregon, we stick her on a plane in Burbank, CA, and send her off. Other parents are totally freaked out. We are nervous, naturally, but she needs a LIFE, not a rubber room. (Though if I have to listen to my brother-in-law much longer, who is apparently the twin brother from another mother of that Texas doofus, I may need one myself).

    Being aware that psychos exist and being afraid of their craziness isn't paranoia, but sanity. That in no way resembles the bulk of our formerly-conservative-but-now-immobilized friends. True conservatism says, "We got here for a reason. Make sure we don't want to keep what we;ve got before replacing it with something new." This is not, "AHHHHHH. Run! Hide! Panic!", which seems to be the MO of the right-wing.

    As always, Jim, thank you for saying it better. But what does "Spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard" mean? Besides, "Welcome", that is.

    Best wishes from the lower 48 (motto: Making Alaska seem more desirable every day.) to you and all your family.

    1. It's one of my favorite quotes.

      I was paraphrasing the writer A. Bertram Chandler, from the John Grimes novels. Chandler's character John Grimes often welcomed his guests with the phrase "Come In. This is Liberty Hall; you can spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard!"

      Chandler used many variations in his novels. In The Big Black Mark for example:
      “Thank you, Mr, Flannery. Mind if I sit down?”
      “Not at all, not at all, Captain. This is Liberty Hall. Ye can spit on the mat an’—”
      “Call Ned a bastard? He mightn’t like it.”


      “Come In. This is Liberty Hall; you can piss out of the window and put my only sister in the family way”

      The origin of the quote comes from the Oliver Goldsmith play She Stoops to Conquer written in 1773. The quote goes "Mr. Marlow, Mr. Hastings, Gentlemen, pray be under no constraint in this house. This is Liberty Hall, Gentlemen. You may do just as you please here."

      A variation was used by Robert Heinlein in A Stranger in a Strange Land. Jubal Harshaw says to Jill, "This is Freedom Hall, my dear. Everyone does absolutely as he pleases ... then if he does something I don't like, I just kick him the hell out."

      The phrase is also commonly used in the writings of Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

      A Bertram Chandler, if you don't know, is the guy who wrote Forbidden Planet.

    2. Greg - ETC(SW) - USN RetiredApril 13, 2013 at 8:25 PM

      Sounds like something that might have been uttered in Callahan's Crosstime Saloon at some point, as well.

    3. I don't recall Spider Robinson ever using the phrase, however it is certainly in keeping with Callahan's philosophy - especially the Heinlein variation.

    4. The sentiment was certainly expressed implicitly even if not expressly.

    5. I've seen the phrase in Heinlein's books, in quotes, but I never knew where he got it from. Good to know.


  40. Jim, amazing post. Having had a variety of cats in my life, I can attest that each one comes with its own personality. I have never had a "Fraidy Cat" although most of them will hiss at the vacuum.

    Fear, now, is an interesting thing. I get asked, a lot, if I am "afraid" when I go to work (law enforcement in a fairly large and very understaffed county in Oregon), to which I reply "Nope." There are people and situations that concern me, and as such, I have techniques for handling those people/problems, but "fear" is not part of my vocabulary. In all honesty, the most scared I have been as a cop has been because of my own driving (one mechanical, one weather related and one just plain stupid young cop).

    I have a whole lot of jumbled thoughts on the topic, and in the end, you've already said them better than I can. Thank you.

  41. Jim, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that you are aware of Bob Altemyer's work supporting your thesis here, but for the benefit of your readers who might be interested I love recommending "The Authoritarians" available as a PDF at his website:



  42. Thanks Jim. You nailed it...Scaredy Cats...all of them!

  43. Because it's not like heterosexual couples would get married just for the healthcare benefits. Or to join fortunes, or for a thousand reasons other than love or babies.

  44. Mr. Wright, you are a wise man!

    I just sent you a friend request just so I can share your posts more easily. As always, I thank you for your insights...

  45. Yesterday, I had a convo with my neighbor. She has been rescuing Jack Russell terriers for many years. One of her first rescues was Louie - he had a broken leg. Louie was terrified of everything. Eventually, he calmed down and he followed her everywhere. He never got adopted out. He passed away last November at 400 yrs old according to the neighbor. They didn't want a normal burial for Louie. She had been in SD taking a dog for adoption and looked into Native American rituals. They had an almond tree on their property that had pretty much been 3/4 dead for years. Hardly no flowers, no almonds. They decided to build a platform for Louie in the tree. And performed the ritual. She says that this spring - the entire tree is in bloom. For the first time since they bought the property 10+ yrs ago. She thinks that it was Louie sending a final message that he's ok. WTF does this have to do with your post? Hell, I dunno other than ShopKat came into your life and improved it. You did a nice thing for a critter that was prolly going to die. And she shows her appreciation. Our 19 yr old pound cat, Stimpy (yea, there was a Ren too). Passed on 3/19. Sleeping in the side yard next to the lawn mower. I saw her wandering about the front yard about an hour before hubbie got home. He went to pet her and went - whoa - that is a dead cat. But hell, what better way to go than sleeping in the sun on a nice warm spring day. I think Ren (passed 10/19/10) her sister from another mother - said hey - time for us to play on the other side of the rainbow bridge - no fear! I really love your essays Mr. Wright.

  46. Thanks for that particular fine read...

  47. If it were up to conservatives we'd still be squatting in dark, damp caves arguing whether harnessing fire would anger the sky spirits.

  48. People are afraid of the unknown. Everyone is, to some degree or other. One of the big differences is that if you are used to dealing with a lot of unknowns in your life then you acquire a greater tolerance to them and don't fear them as much. If your life follows a standard, predictable pattern, with very few unknowns, then you will be far more afraid of the unknown on the rare occasions when you do need to deal with it.

    People who live in small communities where they rarely meet strangers and know what to expect from anyone who lives there are simply not used to the same sort of shocks that people who are surrounded by total strangers all the time are. People who have a comfortable life guaranteed to them for their whole existence simply won't be able to deal with unknown problems as well as people who have always had to scramble for the next bite to eat or roof over their heads.

    1. Wow, anonymous, that is wonderfully put. I think I have outgrown the patience I used to have, so normally I just mutter obscenities when I hear their idiotic GOP comments, but now maybe I can understand why these conservatives have become what they are....I still can't stand listening to them, but maybe it won't hurt my heart so much now :) The only fear I remember having is when I feared something might happen to my kids, but I never told the kids that...just put them on the plane with a big smile !

  49. They're also afraid of the stuff you write ....... Bravo Zulu !! (though I think you and one of the commenters left out Nazis).

    1. Nazis were mentioned in the text. Because, you know, there are always Nazis lurking in the text. Always. That's the nature of Nazis.

    2. Sorry, musta missed it ...... crossposted .... BZ still !!!

  50. To avoid a tl;dr screed in response, I offer the following quotes:

    This from Terry Pratchett:

    "I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it."

    as glossed by Francis Bacon:

    "The mind of man doth wonderfully endeavor that it may light upon something fixt and immoveable which may, in some measure, moderate the fluctuations and wheeling of the understanding; fearing, it may be, the falling of their heaven."

    "Critical thinking," a former president would have said if he had ever done any, "is Hard Work." MUCH easier to fall back on the amygdala, cranking the Fear Factor to eleven.

  51. Thank you. Exhortations to courage will always win my heart.

    It left me with the question, though, of why it is that fear is so prominent in our politics at this time, when there are many brave Americans. And I ended up deciding that this was probably because we've had a relentless promotion of fear in the mass media for many years, and no countervailing promotion of courage, except to children.

    In any event, more thought led to longer remarks--I had actually written something relevant 4½ years ago--and, rather than post a TL;DR here; I put it up on my blog instead.

  52. You sir Mr. Wright are a fucking _American_and I say that with utmost respect. Please please keep up the good fight so that I can hope that you (and millions of like minded Americans) will see to it that my grandchildren will be able to one day regard America as once again, well America.

    1. Typically when people begin a sentence with "You sir Mr. Wright are a fucking ..." a totally different word follows. That word also begin with an "A."

      Color me surprised. Well done, Sir (or Ma'am, as the case may be).


    2. Well it is certainly possible that you can be both American and the other A word but I doubt it, except you can't spell colour properly. Fucking colonists.

    3. Oh you're going to fit in just fine around here. Just fine.

  53. I've always been something of a "freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose" kind of girl. There are, after all, always things to fear, some are even legitimate. The question is what are you going to do about it? Personally, I vote for stomping out the irrational and responding to the rest.

    Last summer we found a feral cat and her kittens living nearby. The kittens were weaned and we live out a bit (think coyotes) so we took them in. There were 4. We still have two. Collectively they are known as "the miscreant kittens". The Momma ultimately befriended us as well and now lives in/out of the garage after a trip to the vet for shots and to be spade. The two kittens are indoors and are fearless and mischievous.

    I mention this b/c I also have dogs. One of them I've had since she was 8 weeks old. From her first thunderstorm the first day in the house, I knew she had "fear issues". As it turned out that fear expanded to just about everything including anyone outside of her home pack. This of course is dangerous in dogs so I tried everything to socialize her including seeking expert council from several sources. She's better, but still a big chicken and still has to warm to strangers (especially, and somewhat amusingly, my rather gregarious father).

    Is this nature or nurture? By all rights the kittens SHOULD be afraid. They aren't. Lucy, the dog, has no particular reason to be afraid but she is. You mention that humans are different. They are of course. They have some choice. But it seems to me some of it is just innate.... throw back evolutionary stuff. Humans are after all animals at our core.

    I don't know what you do w/ those who are afraid of everything. I choose to be a miscreant..... but then, I think I was born that way.

    “You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”
    ― Eric Hoffer

  54. We fear what we don't understand, and we hate what we fear, and we hate because it's less work than understanding.

  55. The word of the day seen as the name on the stern of the lobster-man's boat in the Sunday cartoon, "Non Sequitur" by Wiley, is anoesis: a state of mind consisting of pure sensation or emotion without cognitive content. I had never noticed before. It is getting so I cannot read those Sunday comics without a dictionary access. Fungible commodities anyone?

    1. Anoesis: this sounds like the way I always felt around my third ex-husband .... all electricity, no brains !

  56. Jim,

    I'm not sure how you feel about animated movies but the new-ish movie "The Croods" is a perfect companion to your post. Here is one of the trailers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOV86u8Uwho Excellent movie.

  57. Fear rules. It looks like terrorism can be highly successful against the U.S., when two guys with pressure cookers can cause law enforcement to shut down a major metro area, with untold costs. Any serious state-backed enemy could shut down the whole country with the contents of a JC Penney kitchen department.

  58. This is the first article of yours that I've read and I really enjoyed it.

    Growing up, my mother always 'worried'. To this day, she will point out that she can prove how much she loved each of us because she worried so much about us. Sometimes it would get too much for her, and she would have to disinherit someone for a while. But when forgiven, she goes back to calling us, her children ranging in ages from 40s to 60s, to remind us of the dangers that lurk, during the commercials while watching 'faux news'.

    In the early 80s, my very good friend became ill. At the hospital, his lover told me that he had been diagnosed with AIDS - and had HIV for several years, but hadn't told any of us, including his lover. The lover left, so I and some other friends began helping to care for him. Other friends and family members asked how I could continue to go to his house when I knew he had AIDS. It was the early 80s, and we didn't know as much then as we do now. But I realized that we had shared meals, kissed & hugged goodbye, hung out for years without my knowing. Now that I did know, I wasn't in any more danger. And I realized I did not know who else among my other friends, neighbors, or co-workers carried the same secret. I had to decide to lock myself in the house and hide, or help a sick friend who didn't have the strength to do for himself. As soon as I made it, the choice was obvious.

    I'm not a Christian. I believe that Jesus walked among the people and said some really important things, but I stop at the magic parts. I talk to middle and working class people who fight against their own interests out of fear ("I don't want them to have health insurance because there won't be enough for me" or "I don't want to protect the environment or limit monopolies because someday "I" might find a way to become a billionaire and then it might cost me money to run my business or limit me in some way", and I can only wonder - how can they look in the mirror? How can people enjoy all their stuff when it was taken at the expense of someone else's livelihood or life?

    Anyway, thanks for a great read, I look forward to more. And hopefully, someday I too will have a blog! -tlceagle

  59. Thanks, Jim, for your wonderful writing. I got here accidentally but now you are on my 'regular visitor' list of sites. You also taught me something, because I had never know anyone who had been so military but could actually have basically the same views I have...what a delicious surprise ! I'll be back....

  60. Hi Jim,

    This might be a great article to revisit with the election and yesterday's shooting. Huge fan. You keep my sanity here at work. And I love hearing about ShopKat.


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