The original The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff, was on satellite TV the other morning. My wife, Joyce, watched. I didn't.
Even when I was a young, easy-to-frighten child, The Mummy didn't scare me much. As long as I didn't let myself get cornered, The Mummy wasn't about to get me. I could outrun the dead man walking. Same thing with the Frankenstein Monster. He was way too slow and clumsy to catch me with the quick reflexes and the fast feet.
But, the Werewolf was different. He was fast, strong and vicious. Unlike the embalmed moving mannequin and the blockhead assembled from the booty of grave robbers, The Wolf Man was VERY scary--when the moon was right.
I remember my eight-year-old imagination playing havoc with me after seeing a rerun of the 1941 Wolf Man on our black-and-white TV set. During the next full moon, as I undressed for bed, I'd stare at my feet, just checking to make sure they were not sprouting wolf hair ala Lon Chaney. And I had no interest in wandering around our small, Gary, Indiana backyard when the moon was bright and round. I often would toss and turn before finally getting to sleep.
That fear, of course, was a once a month or so event. The rest of the time, I lived a fairly fright free life--unless I happened to catch a Dracula movie on the boob tube.
Talk about scary; there was no movie monster more blood curdling than the Count. He was lightening-fast. He could morph into a bat. He could vaporize into a mist and slip underneath your bedroom door. There was no evading or escaping him.
Thank God he feared the cross. I took to wearing one for weeks after seeing any of the Hollywood reincarnations of Bram Stoker's masterpiece. The Crucifix was comforting but not a panacea for the lingering terror the movie had injected into my psyche. Even now, as a card-carrying AARP member who's on the brink of senior citizenship, celluloid vampires can put me on edge. I watch True Blood for fun and for the sheer adrenaline rush.
All that's to say, when I hear the wingnuts going on about President Obama and how they fear for America, I understand. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sarah Palin routinely contribute to the mass hysteria by summoning up imaginary monsters that make The Werewolf look like the family Labrador retriever and Dracula look like the Count Muppet on Sesame Street.
To hear the Birthers, the Deathers, the Tea-Baggers and the Republican leadership tell it, President Obama is a James Cameron creation. Or as Kyle Reese put it: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."
The wingnut terrors, of course, are about as real as my youthful fears of the wolf man and the vampire.
Meanwhile, today's headlines force me to recall another low-budget movie monster: The Zombie. In these old black-and-whites, Voodoo sorcerers from Haiti summoned up the dead to wreak havoc and to reckon revenge.
The devastation and horror of the worst earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years, and the countless number of lives lost, put fear and power in the proper perspective: There are real horrors in life; horrors that don't come with popcorn or silly little tea-bags hanging from your straw hat.
Cyber Columnist Monroe Anderson is an award-winning journalist who penned op-ed columns for both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. You can read his blog at http://www.monroeanderson.typepad.com