My kids can tell you how I love to mock the various “alert” notifications. As the warnings have multiplied from one arena to the next, it has just become more than one little human can bear. Any one category may be viewed as legitimate; but taken together the effect is to dull one’s sensibilities and mask the urgency of any response. If one wants to follow the injunction of the Apostle Paul “to be anxious in nothing” – then one had better not get all charged up every time a new alert is trumpeted abroad.
It is difficult to trace backwards in history to see the development of this message genre. Perhaps it started with very significant Weather Alerts – warnings of possible hurricanes or tornados or flooding or dangerous storms. These have proven to be justified and extremely helpful – even to this day. But Kevin Cowherd describes how even these have gotten out of hand with the ubiquitous Weather Channel which now aggressively pursues its mission of delighting in severe forecasts and doing its best to maximize ratings by throwing a scare into everyone as often as possible.
The weather category boasts a variety of sub categories that each have their own peculiar flavor of significance – we can track the pollen level, the overall air quality, the potential for forest fires, the level of sunscreen deemed necessary, etc.
Certainly the nuclear age brought with it a new intensity of Military Alerts that could cascade up to some type of DEFCON response status. We all have seen the Hollywood movie versions of the escalation of such alerts to the terrifying levels of global catastrophe. Fortunately, these plot lines have not yet worked themselves out into reality.
Then we are burdened with the numerous Health Alerts in every form of media – drastically pointing out the worst possible consequences in every conceivable scenario. One day it is unhealthy to drink milk; the next day you can hardly consume enough to ward off some other potential deficiency. I pity the doctors who are forced to answer the many questions that patients with an overload of information feel obligated to ask. I just tell my mother-in-law to tune out whenever health issues are raised in the media.
Legislative Alerts have always been circulating in conservative Christian circles (“Call your Senator today about X!” – I have yet to see Sarbanes or Mikulski all that interested in what I have to say). But with the rise of homeschooling, these lobbying efforts have reached new levels of critical mass. Someone is always threatening our freedoms or secretly pursuing some hidden agenda to promote the humanistic manifesto. Again, there are very serious issues often at stake. But the charge that this downward spiral of moral decay can be laid at the feet of those who fail to live at the heightened state of legislative alert and respond accordingly somehow leaves me cold. So please forgive me when I view the umpteenth email and quickly relay the surprising message to my children that we are once again “ON ALERT!” Again, new species are being spawned every day in this arena: we have educational alerts regarding what curriculum is being promoted or censured; we have political alerts about what shady practices are being instigated by either Democrats or Republicans; the list goes on.
The terrorists have certainly raised the bar in terms of the significance of global threats. We now have developed a more sophisticated color-coded alert system to guide us in our daily activities. Certainly we will organize our responsibilities differently on yellow days as opposed to orange. Can you imagine how much pleasure the bad guys must get out of releasing false intelligence that causes us to heighten our security levels? What a power trip!
There are many specialty types of alerts that each serve a specific purpose:
– Amber Alerts when children go missing
– Animal Lover alerts when another group hits the list of endangered species — I just read an article about a sophisticated search being conducted in the wetlands of Arkansas to try to locate a rare type of woodpecker. Scientists from Cornell University are heading back to the eastern Arkansas wetlands to prove that the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker really lives there. Hopefully Arkansas residents can be on alert to help participate in this important initiative.
All of us have to pick our battles as to where we invest our precious limited resources. I prefer to concentrate my energies on the biblical alert regarding the major threat every day to me and my family: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)