Messages of terrorism can lead to unnecessary fear and paranoia

Thursday, June 19, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:42 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I got sucked in. Sucked in to the world of paranoia, spread by the actions of anarchists and extremists, domestic and foreign, bent on destruction. Sucked in by the press who spread the words of fear across the land. Sucked in by the Department of Homeland Security and the near-daily warnings that there is a ‘terrorist around every corner.’ And if I can be sucked into this vortex of confusion, trepidation and fright, I cannot imagine how many others have preceded me nor how many will follow.

Commentators who make their opinions public, for in print or electronically, are ‘public figures’ no matter how minor. And like my opinionated colleagues, I have ruffled a feather or two — or more. Since my first article, I have received e-mails from Missouri, California, New York, Florida and Arizona, as well as England, Holland and Saudi Arabia. Some in support, some in opposition, most civil; but this mailing was different.

I received an e-mail from my church’s administrator stating that there was a package mailed to me in care of the church. My antenna went up and the alarms went off. I have never used the church as a mail drop nor was I expecting such a mailing.

I asked the administrator if there was a return address on the package, the first indication that something could be amiss. She read the name of the sender and the name of the business, both of Denver. The actual names are not important; however, I knew neither. My anxiety and fear rose to the levee’s edge.

My mind raced with memories of the anthrax mailings to the Capitol in D.C., still unsolved. Raced with the mail bombs sent by Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber. Raced with Timothy McVeigh’s and Terry Nichols’ destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. All of which were acts of domestic terrorism, not foreign. Their actions should have warned our government that the United States and its citizenry are more open to attack from within than from outside. It is a lesson not yet understood.

I asked the administrator not to touch the package as I was worried for her safety as well as mine. I called the Columbia police and talked to a very confident and reassuring voice from Boone County Joint Communications. I arrived at the church with my heart racing and my chest tight.

The package was a 9-by-5 inch white tear-resistant envelope, hand addressed ‘Attn David Rosman Lay led co-ordinator (sic),’ a designation only found on the church’s Web site. I checked that the return address and the postmark were from the same city and ZIP code. They were. Though I relaxed a little, I still took the package outside before opening.

Books. I was sent books concerning a science- and religion-based spirituality from someone I do not know. I was too angry to read the form letter that started, “About six-eight months ago, I mailed to you copies of...” I never received a previous mailing. I would have never requested such a mailing. I did not request this one. I would never use the church as a mail drop. My anxiety turned to anger.

Today, I am still angry, but I am not sure at whom. Am I angry at this stranger from Denver who mailed a package to an address I have never used? Or am I angry at myself for being sucked into the state of anxiety and paranoia born by the extremists of all breeds and promulgated by the press? More the latter than the former, but I am sure of one thing. Today, I remain more afraid of American anarchists killing Americans than I am of foreign terrorists. However ...

If the purpose of terrorism is to cause chaos and paranoia throughout the lands of the ‘enemy,’ and if my experience is any indication, the terrorists are winning and our government’s war against terrorism, foreign or domestic, has failed.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at


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