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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Such scaredy-cats

by Brenda Looper | March 22, 2023 at 3:22 a.m.
Brenda Looper

Spending time with fur-nephew Charlie always puts me in a better mood, especially so as the seasons change (though that's more by the calendar than the actual weather so far; little dude's been spending an awful lot of time on my heated throw as I work).

But Charlie can be a scaredy-cat sometimes. When someone a yard or two over is using powered lawn tools, he'll decide he didn't really want to go out at all. (He only gets to go in the backyard for short lengths of time, with supervision, no matter how often he points out that other cats in the neighborhood wander everywhere.) He has a point on the lawn tools; leaf blowers, especially, can grate on the nerves.

Charlie did scare me a little Monday after he sneaked in to the guest room while I was grabbing something and he started chewing on the tape on a box (the little goblin loves to chew plastic, and that sound can be disturbing).

It all made me think about the pervasiveness of fear. We're all afraid of something. I have acrophobia (fear of heights), compounded by a fear of falling; plus my vertigo is kicking up again, apparently as an after-effect of my bout with covid in January. Me in a stairwell is a laugh riot; hope you don't need to get anywhere quickly. My fear of clowns has eased somewhat, so I'd say I more don't trust them than I'm afraid of them.

As I type this, I'm a little afraid that Charlie might decide I need to be paying more attention to him and trap my right hand under him because he needs snuggles now.

Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where my dear friend and honorary cousin Dr. Earl Babbie is the Campbell professor emeritus in behavioral sciences (and who has a research center named after him there), has for nine years surveyed Americans on their greatest fears, releasing the list around Halloween each year. The last survey showed that corrupt government officials were our collective greatest fear, though that fear has decreased somewhat from the 2020-21 survey. Considering all the weirdness that's been going on the last several years (Jan. 6, indictments, etc.), it's not surprising to me that people fear corrupt officials the most, but not nearly to the extent they did a year earlier (it was a 22 percent drop, from 79.6 percent to 62.1 percent; corrupt government officials have topped the list for six years in a row).

Perhaps another government-related category will make the top 10 next year: legislation for problems that don't exist. Earl calls that "solutions without problems" (he has a website on the subject, Bathroom bills, bans on critical race theory in secondary and primary schools, book bans and other legislation are great for stirring up the culture war, but have little if any evidence of their need (other than making some people "uncomfortable"); meanwhile issues like mass shootings and attacks based on hate of "the other" are laughed off.

Then again, there's not as huge and loud a lobby fighting against those solutions without problems as there is fighting against even the tiniest reasonable law to attempt to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. But sure, put another gun in the holster while shopping for milk while denying that you're doing it out of fear. Keep it up, and the only people in the stores will be people with guns and personal shoppers trying to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are and if it's worth the $7 tip to get someone else's groceries.

Because we really need more fear in the world.

I'm not afraid of the bulk of the people culture-war bills take aim at. The biggest fear I have involving my homosexual friends is that I'll gain too much weight and have too much fun with them; I've yet to uncover the gay agenda either. My biggest fear of my trans friends at the moment is getting sucked into Dungeons and Dragons and anime, though it would still be fun. The librarians and teachers in my life are not the least bit interested in indoctrination, and they're devoted to their jobs and the children they serve.

Once upon a time, our fears were different and less hatred-based; we mostly feared dying, losing someone we love, and assorted critters that could possibly kill us. I still remember having to steer an arachnophobic friend through a movie theater without her catching sight of the numerous standees for the movie "Arachnophobia" that featured a large spider (looking at images of it now, it wasn't that big, but it was still a spider, and I was happy to do it). I'm still grateful to the professor who watched my face grow paler by the second as classmates climbed the lighting ladder in TV production class and who took my acrophobic butt aside and excused me.

I can't recall having to steer someone away from a Drag Queen story hour, a lesbian, a Muslim or Mormon or, God forbid, a library book. Maybe I just know more people who know that if you're afraid of something or you don't like it, you don't have to take part.

There are far more serious things to fear than a man in a dress, wig and heels.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

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