Facts do not stand chance in face of fear

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.  Fear just bowls over facts like a bulldozer over outhouses. Facts don’t stand a chance when facing fear.

I have fought fear many times. In the last two weeks, I fought against fear on two occasions. I got the facts so I would have weapons to fight fear. But facts did not stand a chance in the face of fear.

I was called by a reporter in Mobile.  He asked if Perry County was in “my Senate District.” I said that Perry County is indeed in Senate District 23 which I represent.  He explained tuberculosis cases had been reported in Perry County and some schools had refused to go there to play basketball games. This was the first I had heard of this situation. I told the reporter that I would get back to him. I wanted to get facts even though I knew that facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.

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I called Perry County School Superintendent John Heard. He said that there were no tuberculosis cases in Perry County Schools. However, there were tuberculosis cases reported in the county and two schools had refused to come play basketball games. I also talked to Interim State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller. He said that tuberculosis cannot be communicated just by going in a place to participate in sporting events. There has to be more direct and sustained contact. He also said that this information had been previously provided to school officials.  But facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.

I called the reporter back and reported the facts.  He was skeptical. He wanted me to talk with another television reporter. She wanted a statement for the news cast.  She asked me what would I say to students, parents, school officials and others if I could talk directly to them. I said, “I understand your fears. I respect your fears. I know fears are powerful. However, I want you to know that you are not in danger of catching tuberculosis by going to Perry County.  There are no cases of tuberculosis in the schools. More importantly, you cannot catch tuberculosis by going to the schools as athletes, cheerleaders, officials or spectators. There is no danger. The games remained cancelled. Facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.

Then I received a copy of a news article reporting that that Dallas County and Houston County reported some of the highest lead levels in the country. The headline blared: Two Alabama Counties Among Highest Lead Poison in the Country. The story read that the lead poisonings were much higher than in Flint, Michigan. It further stated that seven of 12 children tested in Houston County had lead levels high enough to qualify as lead poisoning. The article contrasted that to Flint, where it reported four of 100 children tested positive. The article further reported one in three children in Dallas County had tested positive. This news came in the midst of national news stories about the high lead levels in drinking waters of Flint, Michigan. The Flint water is a massive scary mess.

Senator Harri Anne Smith, who represents Houston County, and I were very concerned. Dallas County has seven water systems, and Houston County has eleven water systems. These high lead levels could affect the health of our people, especially children. It could also impact the coming of tourists who boost the economies of these counties. In the longer run, it could hamper efforts to bring additional businesses and jobs to our areas.  We were working hard, but facts do not stand a chance in the face of fear.

Both Senator Harri Anne Smith and I talked to Dr. Tom Miller, Interim State Health Officer. He said that the water is regularly tested in all systems in both counties.The water did not contain high levels of lead. Moreover, the reports involved did not even involve water.

These limited cases probably came from the paint used in houses constructed before the early seventies. It is not the water. But facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.

The truth crawls while lies fly. Fear provides powerful wings for lies. But truth has to forge a way through the brush of fear. The lie: Children and others are in danger if they visited Perry County for basketball games. The truth: Children and others are not in danger if they visited Perry County.

The lie: People in Dallas and Houston counties were in danger from drinking water because of high lead levels. The truth: Water did not contain dangerous levels of lead in these counties, and the lead detected probably came from lead paint in houses constructed before the early seventies. But facts based on crawling truth don’t stand a chance in the face of flying fear created by lies.

Fear is a powerful force. It is more powerful than facts. However, fear is not more powerful than hope.  Hope still forges on when fear has come and gone.