Summer of the Shark and Other Silly Stories

FINALLY my Asian Literature course ended about 2 weeks ago. I don’t know how I did it but I managed to get an A in the course. Okay an A- if Isaac is reading this. He always makes sure to throw in “It was an A MINUS!!!”, ass. 😉

So last week I started “Great Trials in American History.” I thought it was going to be a course about the hurdles that America has gone through and how we became what we are today. I thought we’d be studying the Great Depression, the Industrial Revolution, WWI and II, etc… Turns out we are actually studying LITERAL trials. Salem Witch Trials, Brown v Board, The Scopes Trial, and a few others. Oops. Even though it was slightly unexpected, I am really enjoying the course! I have realized one huge pro to doing online classes: the essays are posted in online discussion boards are not expected to be perfectly written or edited. I have to organize my thoughts and form complete sentences, but for the most part, I am posting blog entries for my classmates to read and respond to. I like it.

Right now we are discussing how unwarranted hysteria breaks out in America and why. I am fascinated with this topic so ended up writing a lot more than I probably should have for this assignment. Thought it might make a decent blog post on here! So here’s what I added to the discussion, I’ll let you know what grade I end up with!

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I have always believed that the media in today’; s society greatly contributes to national and even worldwide hysteria over issues that aren’t necessarily worthy of a complete meltdown. Studying the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600’s has made me realize two things. First, media only fans the flames, but panic will spread even without the help of the news, Facebook, or phone lines. Second, humans thrive on drama and if nothing exciting is going on, they will create the drama out of small and sometimes harmless issues.

In addition to the Red Scare and the anti-Islamic feelings after 9/11, another phenomena that came to my mind was the “Summer of the Shark” in 2001. One 8-year old girl was attacked by a shark in early July and all of the sudden sharks were described in the news as “blood hungry” and portrayed as evil killing machines to citizens of America. In reality, there were no more shark attacks than any other summer! With the help of the media, people were able to successfully scare thousands of vacationers enough to ditch the beach and head somewhere safe and inland, away from the spiteful human hating monsters of the deep.

The “Summer of the Shark” was soon forgotten as the summer came to a close and terrorists attacked our great nation. Rightfully so, American’s were scared. What is not right is the way Islamic people were treated in America after the attacks. I believe that fear is what the “hysteria factor” comes down to. Fear is evident in the Red Scare; American’s convinced themselves that communists were going to takeover even though actual anarchists made up only .1% of America! After 9/11, countless Islamic people on the streets (or God forbid in the airport) were searched, glared at, slandered, and even physically abused.

So do we, as Americans, have it so good that we have to make up reasons to become furious and nervously excited? Are we that bored that we put energy into creating “Summers of Sharks” and “Red Scares?” Part of me believes that this is in fact the case. We are scared of the unknown and feel that if everything is going well and all is calm, something must not be right. Somebody, usually the government, is trying to screw us over, take all of our belongings, and turn our children into slaves.

No matter the issue at hand, I think that there will always be something that will create uproar in society. Somebody will blow up an issue for whatever reason and it will turn viral. I believe this is the way it will always be. Humans are passionate, driven, judgmental, and often confrontational by nature; take several million people and give them something to talk and be scared about and you will have a nationwide panic phenomenon erupt.

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