Americans have grown into paranoia fiends. Any problem, big or small, is another dilemma for us to obsessively fret over. Whether the hottest story is a mosquito carrying West Nile virus or bank employees being held at gun point, we convince ourselves that we could be the next unsuspecting victim and take every possible measure to stay safe.
Take, for example, an incident last month. On Nov. 21, Chai Soua Vang, a Wisconsin man, stood on a tree stand with the intent of hunting deer. The day turned tragic and resulted in multiple murders.
While Vang stood waiting for deer, a passing hunter told him to leave because Vang was trespassing on private property. The details are unclear as to who fired the first shot and exactly why, but it is believed that Vang came out from the tree stand and chased the hunter and his friends, shooting at them. Vang killed six and injured two.
According to Yahoo News, Vang has claimed that the hunter who told him to leave had stolen his rifle and used it to shoot his friends.
Vang later changed his story, saying he acted in self defense after the hunters shouted racial slurs at him and fired shots after he verbally defended himself.
MSNBC.com’s coverage on the story differs a bit. The Web site says the two survivors have stated that Vang fired the first shot and no one from their group had attacked him with their firearms.
This incident of hunters becoming the hunted has caused much controversy, considering buck season has just recently begun, and many people are not sure if it will be safe to go hunting this year.
Days after the incident Clint Potter, a resident of Wisconsin, said, “I used to be worried about black bears. Now I’m worried about someone coming up behind me with a gun.” Jeremy Warring, another local hunter from the same state, said “I’m going to be extra cautious. You just don’t know what could happen these days.”
It is understandable that people can’t help worrying about their safety after stories like this surface, but the paranoia is out of control.
Americans today seem convinced that if one unusual event occurs, we’re all at risk for the same fate. Sadly, paranoia over inane situations such as this has become second nature to us.
Barry Glassner, author of “The Culture of Fear,” said during an interview that as Americans we “pay attention to isolated incidents and scares that get blown way out of proportion.”
What we see on the news is chosen by reporters only to scare us, solely for the benefit of receiving high ratings. Yet we buy into everything we hear and scare ourselves to the point where we have become untrusting, paranoid maniacs.
Chai Soua Vang’s story is a perfect example. What happened that day was a freak situation, an isolated occurrence. Regardless which side of the story you hear, it appears as though these shootings derive from complete misunderstandings. This was a bizarre episode in Wisconsin that unfortunately took away lives, but that doesn’t mean we should take this to heart thinking there will be a sudden increase of freak shootings in wooded areas across the nation. This was a freak situation; therefore, the probability of being murdered in the same way while hunting is slim. Simply, the paranoia is wasted energy.
We need to acknowledge that there is a serious difference between worrying about getting in a car accident and being paranoid that a former marksman from the U.S. Army will shoot you from a tree while you’re hunting.
If the paranoia does not subside, hunters will soon want security systems set up in trees just so they won’t get shot by other hunters.
Beth Keeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.