Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Last I'll Say About It

 Daughter: Daddy - do you think they thought it was scarier because it's Halloween?

My daughter is feverishly disappointed that there isn't a visible, massive tornado outside. Correction - she's disappointed that there isn't a massive tomato outside. She was assured by her teacher that it was a strong possibility. I tried to explain the whole thing again. And I also explained that we way up here are not going to get anything like the weather the folks on the coast could get. Then I explained the snowfall amounts in the Appalachians and how that might be a lot (to be honest I'm not sure) but up here not all that weird at all. Two to three feet is irritating and would cause problems - but it's certainly not unheard of at all. Then she looked out the window to check for the tomato again. "Daddy it's not raining...?" she said clearly disappointed.

I thought about telling her about how it's perfectly justifiable to be alarmist if you live on the New Jersey coastline as opposed to 400 miles away but let it go. I actually feel quite strongly about this sort of thing precisely because my daughter was aware that she is supposed to be scared about something that she doesn't understand. I have had someone mention to me yesterday that they thought it was rude that I was saying we weren't in any apparent danger yesterday morning. Well - we weren't. And certainly not yesterday morning. And saying that it strikes me as scaremongering and alarmism combined to close entire school districts in central NY two days before the after-effects of a weather pattern might touch our community is no comment whatsoever on what a storm is doing in Maryland. It's entirely about whether it's appropriate to behave in certain ways when you aren't actually affected by something. It's about expressing concern that people are looking at information and leaping to a conclusion that isn't based on anything reasonable.

There are thousands - possibly millions - of people who believe that autism is linked to getting MMR vaccines. There's no proof of it. I won't rehash the details of it all but the very short version is that there was never any actual proof, the people involved are entirely discredited or even in jail and the conclusion of the whole thing is that the idea that there was something there was made scarier than it ever needed to be by national media. That's pretty much how this storm has gone. It's as if Jenny McCarthy had landed in New York City and warned everyone that she had spilled some autism in Times Square (that's about as scientifically accurate as what she actually claimed about diagnosing and then curing her own child's alleged autism) and that the original 13 colonies of the United States were all at risk of catching it. And - on cue - the news picked that up and has told everyone repeatedly that it's possible that we are all going to get autism now. Same here. Instead of people on the news being responsible, factual and rational they started wailing that everyone from Savannah to Buffalo is in grave danger of a "Frankenstorm." Hurricanes, blizzards, autism and Jimmy Savile are all raging towards the US. And as a friend noted made even odder because it's presented in the vein of, "...we must always keep in mind that this phenomenon spontaneously formed on the east coast of the US and didn't kill a load of people in the Caribbean first or anything."

They could have focused on where the actual problems were and been informative about that. Yes I suppose it is statistically possible that a hurricane could come thundering inland to central NY without changing in any way in it's intensity and linger over central NY. It's never done it before. And thermodynamically it's almost impossible that it could. So instead of whipping up a panic there should have been a responsible noting to people up here that it's always good to be prepared for bad weather - but that the main problems will be endured by people a long way from where we live. Let's focus on them and what they need. But that's not what happens when bad weather hits New York City. No - this shit happens. Even when there are real problems they need to make it worse.

Any hope of s sane, sensible approach evaporated last night when I put the kids to bed. It was still Hurricane Sandy when I took them upstairs. When I came back down it had already been downgraded to a Tropical Storm. But that sounds naff on the news. So instead we got the renamed "Superstorm Sandy." Or the ludicrous "Sandy The Storm" - which makes it sound like the US is under attack from a massive Godzilla-type dinosaur. Still not good weather at all. Again - I'm not at all belittling what this has done where it's hit badly. I'm lamenting that my bloody region that is nowhere near where this is happening saw fit to co-opt itself into the whole crisis for no logical reason. There are fires in Queens. There are storm surges in Maryland. There are millions without power in Washington DC and southern Connecticut. But when I turn on my local weather I don't think it's legitimate to show me footage of a car under water in The Outerbanks as local weather for us here.

So when my daughter asked me why it wasn't scary out I told her it probably is where the bad weather is. But not here because - well - the bad weather isn't here. So she asked if it just seemed scary to people here because of Halloween. So I told her that it's easy to scare people. And that sometimes it's good and right to be scared. But that sometimes it's also wrong to scare others needlessly. I told her that Daddy is a stubborn bastard at times but that's not relevant here. Bad weather requires being smart and sensible. But that bad weather a long way off is scary for those people, but not for us. And that if we still lived in the UK the storm would currently be in Luxembourg. Which is deemed to be so far away that nobody in the UK ever checks the weather there and panics about it. Because that's not rational. And therefore we aren't to be scared. And we are not to behave as if we were lucky somehow not to get the bad weather. Because that's not rational either.

She blinked at that and asked the more appropriate question. "Why was school closed yesterday if it's open today?"

Not a clue dear.

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