Be afraid. Be very afraid 

Atlantans face their fears in the era of terror alerts

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THE FEAR: Random acts of violence
THE FRIGHTENED: Deloris Roys, criminal psychologist, Highland Institute for Behavioral Change

My fear is of a random act of violence -- like you walk by a car and it blows up -- things you have no control over. It's not necessarily terrorist violence, it could be gang violence or the actions of a mentally ill person, like the gentleman who walked into Perimeter Mall a few years ago and shot people. With terrorist acts, you can at least understand their intent -- they might want to blow up a government building to make a statement, and so you can avoid government buildings. But there's no predicting it if you're at a mall.

TERROR ALERT STATUS: Guarded. Random violence is uncommon, but impossible to predict.

THE FEAR: Television
THE FRIGHTENED: Dana Phelps Marschalk, artistic/executive director of Moving in the Spirit dance company

I stopped watching TV when I was 18 because it sucks your creative brain power. Your brain is more active when you're sleeping vs. watching TV. That's scary. I do not own a television. Early on in my teen years, I realized that I was addicted to the TV. Once it is on, I would get sucked into the images whizzing past: the cars I deserve to own, the shape I should have, the relationships I should crave, the drugs I could take to deal with the stress of not having the car, body or relationship I deserve, or so the marketing says. It is garbage.

TERROR ALERT STATUS: Elevated, and TiVO is scarier still: It actually learns what you watch and starts taping extra shit it thinks you might like.

THE FEAR: Poison and fascism
THE FRIGHTENED: Cliff Bostock, CL food critic and columnist

I have two recurring fears. One is that an unhappy chef will recognize me and serve me poisoned food. Why do I fear this? Because a waiter once told me he watched a chef -- "Chef Jane Pittman," I've long called him -- spit on my plate as it left the kitchen. My second fear, an obsession, is that the U.S. will make a full transition to a fascist or theocratic state with the aid of media which, having become hyper-sensitive about being called liberal, have lobotomized themselves. Did you know editors and publishers, the folks who run the "liberal" media, voted 2-to-1 for Bush? Talk about scary!

TERROR ALERT STATUS: Elevated. Don't rule either of them out.

THE FEAR: Medical malpractice
THE FRIGHTENED: Allison Kelly, consumer advocate, Georgia Watch

It reads like a scene out of Stephen King's Misery, but it's a real-life nightmare for folks all over the state. A woman goes into the emergency room for a yeast infection and wakes up two days later with both her legs amputated below the knee and her right arm severed below the elbow. A mother checks her daughter into their local hospital for dehydration from the flu; the hospital drowns the 9-year-old internally with IV fluids until she falls into a coma and eventually dies. Doctors say it's an accident. Attorneys call it medical malpractice. But survivors and family members would say it's a living hell.

As if going to the doctor wasn't scary enough these days, big businesses like Home Depot and Georgia Pacific teamed up with the insurance and medical industries to push "tort reform" legislation that protects doctors and hospitals that maim and kill their patients, and limits how much they have to pay even when they really fuck things up.

Ask yourself: what's more terrifying than a razor blade in an apple? The sound of your doctor saying, "oops."


THE FEAR: Masquerading Democrats
THE FRIGHTENED: Dan McLagan, director of communications, Gov. Sonny Perdue

With what happened in the elections last year, I'm worried that Democrats are going to start dressing up like Republicans and get all the good candy. Otherwise, we here in the Perdue administration are fearless.

TERROR ALERT STATUS: High. Case in point: Sen. Zell Miller, who never removes his Republican costume.

THE FEAR: Hyper-vigilant cats
THE FRIGHTENED: Karin Slaughter, suspense novelist

The PATRIOT Act scares the shit out of me, so it really scares me when one of my cats startles from a dead sleep and looks behind me like there's a man standing there with a hatchet. I've got two cats: Pete and Sophie. Pete is a 23-pound Maine Coon, 10 years old, and Sophie is an 8-year-old Persian. They were both rescued from the pound and I think they're afraid I'll send them back if they don't learn how to do the dishes.



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