The new age of anxiety - how should merchants respond?

Our economy has tanked, we are fighting in wars with no end in sight, and the new President is predicting difficult times ahead. Our culture has become the "age of (even more) anxiety." Long before September 11, a study by the Yale Anxiety and Mood Center reported much higher levels of anxiety in the 1990s than they did in the 1950s. By the 1980s, normal children had higher anxiety levels than psychiatric patients tested in the 1950s.

Contributing to this chronic level of anxiety and worry has been 9/11, the D.C. sniper, increases in crime, threats of bio-terrorism, and "new" diseases such as Hepatitis C and West Nile virus. There has always been a lot to worry about for those inclined to do so, but now we are given new information every night on the news. The old adage, "if it bleeds, it leads," is the tune of newsrooms across the country adding fuel to the idea that on one is safe, even in their own homes.

The "war on terror" has left many of us terrorized. This national mantra has created a culture of fear in American like a self-inflicted wound. After the numbness of 9/11 subsided, we struggled as the "new normal" of frisking elderly women in airports, surrendering our lipsticks, and walking barefoot through metal detectors became a way of life. There is fear, anxiety and confusion. Exactly what does an elevation of the color code by Homeland Security mean? What am I suppose to do? Most of us have no idea, except we should probably be anxious. As I am asked the security questions at the Post Office and Airport, I can't help but think if I was a terrorist bent on blowing up hundreds of people, it probably would not bother me to offer fraudulent answers.