What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. It now resides in the craw of every American concerned that the world around them is mired in mayhem.
As this mindless terror joins a growing list of disquieting storylines, it’s creating a wake of gnawing stress neither Zantac or Xanax can dull.
The devastation from Mother Nature’s fury in Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and the Virgin Islands is giving way to a realization there is no quick fix for the many who were hurt or lost loved ones. The increasing incidence of cyber hacking is threatening the world’s financial health; the growing threat of a global pandemic from bio hacking is endangering everyone’s health.
The violence in Charlottesville is reigniting a national conversation about racism and hate, as the Seoul-less punk of Pyongyang, a one-man Armageddon, is shooting off nuclear-capable missiles as if he were Dr. Strangelove playing a game of Battleship.
Now a massacre in Vegas is feeding renewed fears that no place, and no one, is safe anymore.
A few weeks ago, with the wrath of Hurricane Irma headed my way, it occurred to me that there’s a message in all this that’s simultaneously outrageous and contagious.
For the good of the realm, it’s time to panic.
Because if we don’t wake up — and quickly — to right the American experience, we will not only lose lives along the Vegas Strip but lose ground we can’t possibly recover, values we can’t fully restore and relief we’ll never fully find.
When three hurricanes stared millions of Americans in the eye, we refused to blink. From first responders to volunteer responders, local leaders to FEMA’s best, America was united, determined and full of productive pluck. Personal feelings of panic were assuaged by public displays of human resolve and heart.
So why not utilize disaster response as an attitudinal road map for governing?
Why not use the threat of imminent adversity to replace today’s divide and conquer with tomorrow’s unite and overwhelm?
Given what’s happening (and not happening) today, a little collective panic would inject a dose of urgency into tackling our biggest challenges before they tackle us.
Because after all the Harveys and Irmas and Marias pass into climatological lore, and Las Vegas returns to normal, we remain a nation at war with ourselves.
It is a conflict waged on gridirons of protest, in Twitter feeds consumed with venom, and across Washington where roll calls of honor have given way to roller derbies of manufactured hate.
As government devolves into adolescent taunts and systemic paralysis, our infrastructure crumbles and our foreign policy stumbles.
As elected pretenders proffer promises they can’t or won’t fulfill, the public’s health is held hostage by a system that will one day imperil everyone’s health.
As Washington’s confederation of conceit elevates campaign cash over conscience, America’s children face a knee-knocking debt they can neither fathom nor repay.
In short, Washington has become a members-only hostel that patronizes the public and treats its own with hostility. In Nero-like fashion they fiddle while the fire they helped create consumes everything we believe in, and the freedoms so many died to protect.
Yet if we don’t make them panic for their political lives, we have only ourselves to blame. We tolerated it. Where is Howard Beale (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”) when we need him?
Where is the outrage as we see today is at risk and tomorrow’s in peril?
Where is the outrage over a $20 trillion national debt stifling jobs and growth, a health care system we can’t fiscally sustain or afford, borders that are no more than lines in the sand, failing schools that are forfeiting our “knowledge edge” over the world, or with random acts of terror, here and abroad?
Instead of calmly sitting back or retreating into our own protective crouches, it’s past time we took on life’s challenges boldly and urgently with a derring-do American attitude, and with can-do American leaders.
Psychologists counsel that almost every problem can be solved if we just stopped for a few seconds, took a deep breath and reflected before acting.
Yet given the state of the world (and Washington) today, we need a little less reflecting and a lot more doing. We need to pull together as one against the many man-made storms still heading our way.
If not, build an ark, for the reasons to panic will be long and plentiful.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.