I’m about a third of the way through David Herbert Donald’s biography of Abraham Lincoln. I bought the book on a lark at a used bookstore, but I'm really enjoying it. If anything, it’s taught me that the harsh partisan politics we’ve seen in the U.S. for the past eight years or so are nothing new -- in fact, things are pretty mild compared to the way they were back in Lincoln’s day. In his unsuccessful Senate campaign, he bribed a newspaper $500 to support his candidacy. There’s nothing like history to give you a little perspective on modern life.

Still, it’s difficult to get perspective on living in here and now, on the eve of a war in Iraq with the terror alert status jacked up to orange. To other people around the country the idea of terrorism is an abstraction -- September 11, 2001 was a vicarious event. But living in D.C., I actually saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon and three weeks later toured the wreckage, myself. I stood on the curb when the city cleared out, the streets eerily quiet despite being jammed with fleeing commuters. Lawrence, Kansas probably has very little to worry about Al Qaeda, but living in the American capitol is a cause for real concern.

I’ve given up on watching the cable news channels -- I get all my information from the internet, now. Maybe having a bright orange danger warning flashing on the screen is good for ratings, but it’s not good for my state of mind. It’s irresponsible of them to constantly beat the drums of fear -- to have constant running analysis on the inevitability of attack. Isn’t it enough just to repeat the government’s warnings? Why heighten hysteria?

I’m reminded of Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling for Columbine, where he discusses how the news media creates a culture of fear. Well, I’m tired of being afraid, tired of worrying constantly whether I’m going to get mugged or killed in a terrorist attack. I just want to go about my life peacefully, unaffected by all this “excitement.” When was it that safety and quiet were abandoned in favor of terror and constant nervousness? I certainly can’t remember.

I guess I can just be thankful I never moved to New York.