Mainstreaming Fear

I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. I have to tell you that first, and I have to tell you why. When I was a kid and first discovered his books (woefully few then, for a reader like me), I could get excited about a girl with psychokinetic fire power or a guy’s haunted car. Cool. Rabid dog, okay. But as the books came, and King’s writing began to change, I also began to appreciate the human horrors that went along with any supernatural stuff.

That would be more grown-up and realistic scary stuff, I suppose, and I believe it haunts most of us more regularly that we’d like to admit or believe. Our fears that someone will hurt our children, fear of the death of a marriage, fear of being held hostage and tortured, fear of rape, cancer or other major illness, senility in old age, accidental death, or the loss of sanity. Normal, everyday horrors.

Those are the things that scare me most, anyway.

Then there are things I try to think about as clinically and detached as I possibly can. I cannot let myself think too deeply about them, because these things scare the heck out of me too. Like how easily crappy, uninvolved parents can create a sociopath, if not a serial killer. How quickly groupthink distorts a peaceful crowd into a killer mob. How we become numb to new stimuli after a certain amount of exposure, and once we’ve become sufficiently numb to something we consider it safe and appropriate and never think about it again.

These things scare me because they’re so subtle. They happen before you realize it and by the time you do, it’s out of your control. And while the things in the first category scare me, they tend not to happen a whole heck of a lot. These subtle things, though. They’re insidious. These things are happening right now, every day, everywhere in the world, and we’re not noticing because they’ve become so “normal”. By the time we wake up, what new horror will we have mainstreamed?



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