I was approaching the spinach along with two other women. All three of us stopped and speculated on whether it was really safe to eat spinach now, more than a month after spinach contaminated with e-coli dominated the news. One of the women had just heard a news report that said there’s a possible safety scare with tomatoes now. She was steering clear of spinach, lettuce, and tomatoes and sticking with vegetable that hadn’t been implicated, yet. I was coming at it from the other angle, figuring that companies were so spooked by the recent spinach contamination that spinach is probably the safest food now. The e-coli are probably hiding in something we haven’t even worried about yet—Fig Newtons or pumpkins.
Midway through the conversation, the spooked women acknowledged that there were actually only a few deaths from contaminated food. I suddenly remembered a statistic I heard on NPR this morning: Four people a day die in the United States from domestic violence. Four a day, mostly women. That’s more Americans than are dying in Iraq most days. That’s a lot more than are killed by spinach, but the spinach is bigger news. Is it just that domestic violence seems like something that can’t happen to us--I would never let a man beat me, we think—whereas we can’t really blame a victim who just ate spinach? Is it the unpredictability of a food outbreak, the novelty, or the fact that it could just as easily hit our children as ourselves?
Whatever our fascination with unlikely scary threats, the Republicans are now pulling out all the stops to scare Americans into thinking that if we don’t win in Iraq the terrorists will bring the fight here. Well-meaning fearful voters parrot this myth that makes no sense whatsoever. The recent intelligence report said that the Iraq war was making terrorism in the US more likely, not less, yet I’m afraid too many Americans may vote their fears on election day. And if terrorism won’t do it, there’s always the fear that gay people will start getting married in New Jersey soon, and God knows where that will lead…
On the way home from the supermarket, I played my Rent CD. My favorite song, which I play nearly every morning says, “Begin to love, or live in fear. No other road, no other way, no day but today.” It’s hard to avoid living in fear, but I decided to buy my kids spinach to balance out all the sugar they’ll be collecting tonight in their scary costumes. Rejecting fear feels like a radical act, spiritually and politically.