Americans Worry Too Much – Take a Breath


Americans worry too much.  Data shows it, a stream of anxiety-producing news exploits it, and you probably feel it around you.  Here is good news:  Most of this political and media-driven anxiety is unjustified, and you can do something about it.  You can regain your calm by tying it to facts.  

Let’s start with a few.  Yes, the republic is awash in historically unread, morally ungrounded, objectively misinformed politicians and media mavens.   They think they are the cat’s meow, even if they cannot change a tire or oil in their car, let alone explain how a toilet flushes or bolt-action rifle works. 

Here is another fact.  Most Americans have little in common with the prevailing class of “tellers,” determined this election cycle to socialize, normalize and patronize us, regulate, reeducate and recalibrate us, tax, talk down and put us right. 

Spoiler alert:  Actually, most of us are right.  We work hard, love and raise our families with heart, understand how our grandparents and parents sacrificed for what they believed in – country, faith, family and friends.  We do not need the likes of self-promotors, manic media or fear fanners to get us reoriented.  We are oriented.

Data makes the point, even as it affirms, we are a society more inclined to worry than take stock of reality.  Yes, the pace of life, technology’s advance, and leader-driven cultural shift is high.  Yes, most Americans prefer slower change, greater respect for history, and recognize that some issues – like border security, economic welfare, and constitutional liberties deserve our full attention. 

But many issues are simply hyped.  Take the “healthcare crisis.”  Do we really want socialized medicine?  While coverage for preexisting conditions and catastrophic health insurance are priorities – leaders from both parties support these priorities, despite cross attacks.   Prescription drug prices should come down, but President Trump is pushing that.  The reality is different from what many imagine. 

Yes, one in four Americans think prescription drug prices are too high.  But less than 15 percent of those under 65 are without insurance, and many healthy younger Americans simply choose to spend their disposable income elsewhere.   

Adverse health has varied causes – many within our control.  For example, roughly 50 percent of prescriptions for chronic diseases are not taken as prescribed.  Government is not going to fix that.

Another issue in the news warrants factual unpacking.  There have been “mass shootings” in America, and they are tragic.  There is a measurable uptick in frequency.  But what does that really mean?

In America today, there are an estimated 393 million guns, most held by law abiding citizens for security, bagging birds and tagging deer, or target shooting.  The Second Amendment gives us that right – as a matter of constitutional law.

Against this number, there were 163 shootings involving four or more people between 1967 and 2019, according to the Washington Post – “mass shootings.”  Slightly more than half were domestic violence events (57%).  Even so, the average over 52 years was 3.13 per year.

Even with the upward trend in shootings, the total for 2018 was 20.   In a nation of 329 million, the chances of encountering a “mass” shootings are less than 16,500,000:1.   If you take out domestic violence, the odds are 36,600,000:1.  Reverting to the 52-year average, chances fall to 105,207,667:1.  In other words, the odds of encountering a “mass” shooting – depending on your assumptions – are between 16 million and 105 million to one. 

By comparison, your chances of being struck by lightning are 700,000:1. Put differently, you have a 23 percent greater chance of being struck by lightning than encountering a “mass” shooting.  Didn’t the media mention that?      

Interestingly, Americans worry more today than ever – and their top worries, according to a June 2019 Pew Research poll include:  Violent crime, drug addiction, health care, income gap, and “made up” (aka fake) news.  

While these are all real issues, data on health care and gun violence make the point – we over-worry. On drug addiction, this is a serious national problem.  It warrants national, state, local, family and individual vigilance and thoughtful action.  Worry, however, is not the answer.

Thoughtful, concerted, knowledge-based action is the answer – conscious prevention, treatment, attention to science, respect for law enforcement, border security and (a shocker) human compassion … is what will turn this around.  Worry is misspent energy.  Better is a constructive evaluation of actions to help others.  Honestly, is there another argument?

On the “income gap,” or stock market fluctuations (perennial), pensions and 401K returns, present discounted value of future dollars, inflation (almost non-existent), unemployment (all-time low), whether Congress will pass a trade deal with Mexico or China, take a breath. 

Some things can be controlled and others not.  I am reminded of my grandmother, who counseled we take care of what we can, and the rest will work itself out.  Worry will not raise stock prices, preserve low inflation, or ink that US-China accord.  You are with me, right? 

Then there is “fake news,” which brings us back to start:  Modern media feeds on your anxiety – stoke it, provoke it, make much of nothing, badger, bully, and intentionally inflame, then disclaim responsibility for any of this, like a cordial cat after misbehaving. 

Media anchors extol the virtues of objectivity, while pushing their opinions – and insisting you subscribe to them, worry with them about the world.  News blast:  You do not have to.  Not only can you hold your own views, you can form them free of the media claptrap that passes for news.  

Worry is occasionally worth the emotional effort – but more often not.  When you look at modern politicians and media intent on making you worry, just think:  Do I need to worry?  Actually, most of the frenzy is about their world – not yours.  They want ratings and profits – so feed anxiety.    

Here is a new thought:  Be happy with all there is to be happy about – more than the media will ever report.  More days pass with good news than bad, more events bring peace, a sense of purpose and accomplishment than devastation.  More reasons exist – in our thriving economy – to be glad, not sad.   The mainstream media will not share that with you – but I am.  Enjoy the day.  The sun also rises.

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