On April 15, the Boston Marathon was rocked by bombings that left three dead and 264 injured. Three days later, in West, Texas, a fertilizer plant exploded, killing fifteen people. The months before were filled with reports of mass, public shootings—including the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy—so numerous it's difficult, six months later, to even recall them all. And don't forget all the natural disasters and forest fires and global political unrest.
In the middle of that difficult week in April, the parody news site The Onion ran a series of articles with titles like "BREAKING: How's Everyone Doing?", "Authorities: Sadly, There Are Many People Who Could Have Done This," and "Jesus, This Week." But the most revealing and accurate pulse on everyone's nervousness was in a purportedly farcical Onion article titled "This What World Like Now," accompanied by a picture of the Boston bombings:
According to a majority of Americans, they have mostly come to terms with the fact that they now live in a world where, when an explosion happens, they immediately suspect it's the result of domestic or foreign terrorism and are fully aware that hoping people died because of an accidental gas leak is morbidly wishful thinking. The U.S. populace also said that seeing the photo of a vacant-eyed suspect appear on their computer screen or watching a recorded message made by someone halfway around the world hours or days after an attack no longer shocks them.
In fact, sources confirmed, the nation fully expects it.
What reportedly frustrates and angers them most, every citizen in America said, is accepting that there is absolutely nothing they can do to change it.
"The lack of control I have when it comes to something as basic as the safety of myself and my family is very upsetting," 42-year-old Pennsylvania resident Kathy Wells said. "I don't want to kill anyone. I have never wanted to kill anyone. And yet there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who desperately want to kill me. I don't know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, but I do tend to think that whatever happens will probably be bad."
Let's be honest: that "lack of control" is not just something some Onion writer dreamed up, just another fake quote from a made-up source played for laughs. We all feel it. Now that we all know what's going on everywhere all the time just because we fire up Twitter every ten minutes, our sense of safety is eroding. Danger lurks around every corner.
Perhaps it's true that it's just our turn—that we're just getting a taste of what it's like to live in, say, Afghanistan or Somalia—but that doesn't make it any less unnerving. The more senseless the act of violence is, the more we feel out of control, to the point where discovering that an explosion at a fertilizer plant is an accident, not an act of terror, actually makes us feel relieved.
It might be the end of the world. Who knows? But nobody feels fine.
In Hollywood's golden age, Americans went to the movies to escape the realities of what surely felt like The End was impending—the Depression, World Wars, that sort of thing. People relied on entertainment to help them escape the scary world outside, at least for a little while. They could sink into a glittering dance number, watch the pretty people live it up on screen, and forget about their troubles, at least for a little while.