The American public connects voyeuristically to the news. We like to think we feel the kind of anguish that victims who appear in news reports feel, and we feel genuine anger when we believe that someone in the public eye is a menace or gets away with something heinous.
In my book "False Alarm," I describe the fear epidemic that followed the terror attacks of 9/11, where our entire society felt wounded and violated, as if we had all been in those buildings. It took us a long time to detach and realize we hadn’t been there.
Our own Geraldo Rivera described the outrage of his wife Erica and other mothers at their child’s day camp over the verdict.
I know Erica, and she is one of the most devoted mothers anywhere.
Americans everywhere have reacted in frustration and anger over the possibility that a duct tape chloroform-wielding murderess had been allowed to go free. The injustice burns us to the core; we are a society that stands for justice. Gone is talk of “reasonable doubt,” as Americans everywhere consider the vulnerability of their children and transfer these feelings to poor adorable Caylee, who ended her days in a garbage bag.
As Fox News is now reporting, this public anger is already taking legislative form, as the state of Florida hope to pass a new law that would target poor parents for not reporting a child’s disappearance is a crime. But there are also many other negative effects to all the anger we are all feeling. Heart disease, cancer, and depression are all connected either directly or indirectly to the affects of stress.
What should Americans do to get back on track after the verdict, besides reminding ourselves that this is not our child, not our family? We are fascinated by the case’s lurid aspects, but we can’t allow negative thoughts to overwhelm us. The Anthony family now fears for its safety; is it a normal or healthy reaction that so many Americans want to see harm come to them, and a small minority may even try to act on these feelings? I say it isn’t healthy. I believe it isn’t normal.
We can certainly relearn from this case just how precious our children are, but we must also learn to sublimate our more negative feelings and frustrations into positive activities such as exercise and laughter. We can analyze the Anthony case in our minds to take home lessons in proper versus improper parenting, normal versus terribly abnormal, but if we become consumed with anger over Casey Anthony, then we have gone way too far down the wrong road.
Marc Siegel, M.D. is an associate professor of medicine and Medical Director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a Fox News Medical Contributor and the author of the "Inner Pulse; Unlocking the Secret Code of Sickness and Health."