Johnson's World: Threats

Threats aren’t always what they seem.

May 1, 2016
Steve Johnson of Copresco 54faf2499161d

While sitting at a stoplight the other day I noticed a young olive-skinned girl wearing a hajib and driving a Toyota in the lane next to me. She turned her car into the parking lot of our local community college and I continued on my way to work.

A few minutes later I experienced déjà-vu as I pulled up next to another olive-skinned young lady wearing a hajib and driving a Toyota. This one was fixated on her smartphone to the extent of ignoring the traffic light, the road, pedestrians, and the other vehicles around her.

Today a woman in a hajib is threatening to some people. It makes them think of terrorists.

Not so many years ago, those Japanese automobiles, not their Arab drivers, would have been perceived as the threat to America. Now Japan’s economy lies in shambles and China is the economic menace du jour.

In an even earlier time, the girls would have been considered threats, not as terrorists but instead as exporters of crude oil. Their head coverings would have reminded us of the leaders of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). Today disagreement between OPEC members is rife, the cartel is in shambles, and world petroleum prices are at records lows.

Which of these things was really the most threatening to me in the above situations? The answer is none of the above.

In fact, the biggest threat was the smartphone. At that moment my life was literally in danger because the driver of a car only a few feet away from me was oblivious to traffic around her. She was an accident waiting to happen.

In a larger sense the girl and her ilk represented a possible threat to my very way of life. No, silly, not because she might be of a different religion or ancestry than me, but again because of her smartphone. This young person was choosing to turn to an electronic medium instead of print for information.

It is reassuring that studies have shown immigrants begin to assimilate almost immediately upon arrival in our country. On the other hand, a plethora of recent studies are clearly demonstrating that excessive reading from screens actually changes the neural paths in our brains! Some of these changes may be permanent and detrimentally affect our ability to focus intensely or for long periods of time on serious subjects. Now that’s a real threat.

Fortunately, my confidence in the future was restored by the first girl I saw. Although she may have favored the same mode of dress and of transportation as the second girl, she was the one who went to the community college. By improving her education she was, hopefully, becoming a more informed reader and more likely a print consumer. After all, survey after survey shows that today’s college students prefer print over screens for their textbooks and for serious reading.

My point is that threats aren’t always what they seem. As some of you are making plans to travel to Germany for the drupa show next month, this might be a good time put threats into context.

Are you worried about flying across the ocean? Bear in mind that you stand a much greater chance of being killed in traffic on the way to the airport than in a plane crash.

Once on board your plane you are much more likely to be harmed by an airborne illness innocently spread throughout the closed aircraft cabin by one of your fellow passengers than by a terrorist hijacking or bombing.

I enjoy travelling to exotic destinations, and I have friends all over the world who welcome my visits. No matter where I go, be it Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East, upon hearing of my travel plans my neighbors invariably react by asking, “You’re going where?!? Aren’t you scared to go there?”

When I arrive at my destination and meet local people, one of the first questions they ask me is where I’m from. When I tell them, the response is always the same. They form their hand into the shape of a gun and make shooting noises.

“You’re from Chicago?!?” they exclaim. “Aren’t you scared to live there?”