The Subject is Fear


The Subject is Fear

I walk every afternoon with my neighbor and dog GIGI. We make a circuit around the neighborhood and see a number of folks doing the same thing. Some, we know and stop and chat and let the dogs sniff each other and perhaps even become involved in a ‘how are you’ barking match. The rule in our neighborhood is “no blood, no foul.”

What I have noticed lately is that a number of people see us (and others) coming up the sidewalk and quickly leap into the street so as not to come into close contact with us. Often these are elderly, and I can understand some reluctance, although many of the folks we talk to are getting on a tad.

What concerned me are the young folks in their 20s and 30s who seem to run away, afraid of…well what?

I told a colleague the other day that I didn’t have any real fear. Of course I was wrong. I’m afraid of snakes, heights, and perhaps of someone lurking behind a bush, nature has caused ‘fight or flight’ to kick in when appropriate. When I was young I was invincible. I was going to live forever and nothing was going to stop me.

As I reread the last sentence, I realize that fear is connected to death.  I’m afraid because, as the emperor said in Star Wars, “I will surly die.” The point is of course I will die. Everyone dies, it’s only a case of when, not if. Do I want to die now? Of course not. I have things to do.

Those men and women who go to fight in wars know they take a risk. They know that it is possible that they will die. I’m sure there is some trepidation. But they overcome that fear knowing that there are important things to be done.

I wonder sometimes if the young people of today have difficulty with fear because they don’t have important things to be done. Their lives are so full of ‘social media’ and “spring break” that they lose sight of important things like honoring their parents, or reflecting on the wonders of the universe, or even accepting their neighbors for who they are. They forget that we have things like honor, and freedom, and love – to fight for and protect. Or maybe the fear grips them because they do forget those things.


I have read and reread the recommendations of my state health department about wearing masks and socializing outside, in fresh air, whilst and at the same time keeping social distances. There is no, repeat NO restriction in meeting and talking to folks outside as long as you social distance, and I note that now that social distance is down to 3 feet, although we all keep a minimum of six feet apart.

What has Covid done to so many of our young adults? Has a virus that has less than .15% chance of causing your death frightened them so much that they cannot bring themselves to socialize, even taking proper precautions? Trust me, I have first hand knowledge that good ole flu can be deadly. But we didn’t shrink from our family, friends and neighbors. Just what is this fear all about?

What have we allowed to happen to ourselves? We have kept our schools closed even though our kids are the least likely to come down with a case of Covid. We have destroyed our businesses over forced lockdowns and inconsistent rules – OK at Costco, but not at the Barber – all due to fear.

My concern is ‘will it stop.’

These fearful folks have it so ingrained in them who will that believe what the pandemic is over. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning that said that we basically have herd immunity NOW. That means its over NOW.

How are we going to communicate to people who live in fear. People who wear masks in their cars, or in their homes, or while running or riding a bicycle. People who run out into the street rather than share the sidewalk. People who are simply afraid of one another.

I’m open to suggestions.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

6 Responses

  1. It’s most likely courtesy. I don’t think they’re afraid of you, John. They don’t assume that you aren’t concerned about the virus and since you’re a senior citizen they’re giving you space.

    But probably a good way to communicate to young people is to not assume that they have no problems and “don’t have important things to be done.”

    For someone who regularly bristles at his “betters” it’s pretty rich to read that.

    And also, as usual on this topic, your facts are wrong all over the place. CDC has not moved social distancing guidelines for adults to 3 feet. The pandemic is not over yet, there are potential surges underway in the Northeast and Michigan and now the south. We don’t have herd immunity yet, and we might not get there anytime soon thanks to vaccine skeptics and misinformation.

    Yes, some people are more concerned than they need to be, we are entering a psychological phase of this pandemic. I think once we actually have offered a vaccine to everyone who wishes to have one, then we’ll see a pretty rapid change. We’ll be getting there soon, until then, assume the best from the people avoiding you.

  2. Tony — These people aren’t avoiding me, they are avoiding everyone. It makes no sense. Its easy to step aside on the sidewalk, to keep distancing if that’s your concern, but there is more to it than that. I see fear in their eyes.

    As for facts, there are none. How do we believe anyone that sets forth ‘facts’ that change with the wind. Farci, Brix, the CDC, Our President, everyone says something different on any given day. We aren’t in a scientific pandemic, we are in a political pandemic. Face it Tony, your government is not shooting straight.

    By the way, I’m praying for you and your city. Its horrible what is happening in Portland. I hope you can help do something to fix the problems there.

    All the best to you and yours


  3. John, you are correct. I won’t go into the normal 10,000-word email I would like to write about this subject but they are afraid. You know I live in a typical older community in Houston. Karen and I walk most nights when I am home. Never seen anyone in my neighborhood with a mask, ever. We were at a restaurant Saturday night and there were 300 people. Most did wear a mask as they were walking in or out but certainly not everyone. We know to be careful but at the same time not run from life. I was in LA three weeks ago and had one couple jumped off the elevator when I got on. Had others not get on the elevator when my elevator would stop at their floor even if I waved them on. I best not go into my view of why.

    It is fear and people who cannot think for themselves

  4. John,

    I don’t get my information from news networks, I follow a curated list of doctors, epidemiologists, virologists, and public health professionals. I’ve followed this list since last February and the information from this list has been as consistent as one can expect during an emerging crisis. There is an absolute consensus among these people that the pandemic is not over. There is much hope, but we’re letting people die needlessly every day because many people in this country are too selfish to do simple acts that protect others.

    You’ve got a record more than a year long of downplaying the severity of the pandemic. You insisted PIE would go on in the face of some pretty dire evidence in 2020 and one would only need to look back at your blog for the repeated assertions that it’s “no big deal” and we’ll be “back to normal” any day now.

  5. Tony — I plead guilty. I’m an eternal optimist. I simply can’t bring myself to use words like “letting people die needlessly” and “people are too selfish…” You are right — I don’t follow curated lists, nor do I take absolute consensus at face value. I have never, and perhaps I lead a sheltered life, never met two scholars, scientists, or people, for that matter that agree absolutely on anything.

    The facts, as it seems to me, is that our curated lists of doctors etc have dropped the ball on reacting to the crisis. The vast majority of people who have died of CV are seniors, and those with preexisting illnesses. It is heartbreaking, but our curated lists made decisions that seemed to exacerbate those deaths. Strangely, the death rate has plummeted as we have learned how to deal with the disease. Many of the successful protocols were available last year, but strangely, doctors were told not to use them. Strangely they are using them now and to some success.

    Tony, I could find no place where is used the words that the pandemic was “no big deal.” I may have, but I couldn’t find it. I also found no place that I said we would be “back to normal” any day now. I cancelled PIE 2020 at great cost to my company because I was concerned about the health and well being of exhibitors and attendees. We have moved PIE 2021’s dates three times and its venue once to ensure a safe and secure location for the event. I have sat with CEOs who have cried in my presence at the personal and professional losses that pandemic has wrought on them, their families and their companies. I could go on and on, but I know these words fall on deaf ears so there is no reason to continue.

    As usual, I wish you all the best — and pray that you and yours are safe and happy.


  6. I shouldn’t have put those phrases in quotes, they weren’t direct quotations, but paraphrasing the sentiment I feel is meant behind your pandemic related posts.

    I dug back through just a spattering of posts back last spring and found an abundance of what you might call optimism, but I which clearly was very off the mark of what did happen. And that’s OK, most of the country was taken by surprise.

    Sure, there’s disagreements about how severe the fourth surge will be in the USA (internationally we are still in much much trouble, likely for a long time) but the only people I think you could fine who thing the pandemic is over are the same ones who’ve been saying it’s over (or a hoax, or not that serious, or just the flu) for the whole year, and they’ve been wrong over and over.

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