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Help! The Times Square Car Bomb Plot Makes Me Scared To Leave The House

Dear Bintel Brief,

With the recent events in Times Square (the foiled car bomb plot) I’m feeling anxious about leaving the house. I know that no one can control for these kinds of things, but do you have any advice about what I can do to calm my nerves?

Nervous North of Times Square

Steve Almond Responds:

Dear Nervous,

Honestly, I don’t think any American who doesn’t live in New York City can speak to this kind of anxiety adequately. It’s too abstract unless you’re living in the target zone, so to speak. I could recycle the expected bromides about how unlikely another attack is, especially given the heightened security. I could urge you not to imprison yourself inside your fears. I could remind you that we’re all scared in this era of data overload, in which every flashing screen seems to be presenting some new and dire threat, from terrorism to children’s toys. And I could certainly urge you to turn away from these screens, which — it seems to me — often do more to make us crazy than protect us.

But instead I’ll just observe that these fears are not going to be erased by words, that they require ongoing management. I’d also remind you that there are millions of people the world over who have learned to live with this kind of ongoing terror. Consider what life must be like for the people of Baghdad and Jerusalem and Kinshasa and Caracas and Cape Town and on and on.

I’m not suggesting that thinking about the perpetual dangers of these cities should make you feel any more safe walking through Times Square. But they do serve as a powerful reminder that all human beings share a common interest in opposing the use of violence by their own governments and private citizens. This feels especially crucial right now in America, as we endure a period of economic insecurity and large, demographic shifts. In the end, most of the terror we experience lives inside of us. We must strive to experience these fears without become a captive to them.

Steve Almond is the author the story collections “My Life in Heavy Metal” and “The Evil B.B. Chow,” the novel “Which Brings Me to You” (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books “Candyfreak” and “(Not That You Asked).” His most recent book, “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life,” came out in Spring 2010. He is also, crazily, self-publishing books. “This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey,” is composed of 30 very brief stories, and 30 very brief essays on the psychology and practice of writing. “Letters from People Who Hate Me” is just plum crazy. Both are available at readings. In 2011, Lookout Press will publish his story collection, “God Bless America.”

If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, email [email protected] Selected letters will be published anonymously. New installments of the Bintel Brief, featuring Steve Almond, will be published Mondays at <>.

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