Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Misplaced Fears

The numbers have not been reported for 2009 yet, but in the year prior to that 52,167 people died violently in this country. The number of those who died at the hands of foreign terrorists was zero. The toll almost certainly did not decline in 2009, at least not to any major degree, and once again foreign terrorists killed zero.

There were 290 people on the airliner that the “Christmas Bomber” attempted to bring down over Detroit. Had he succeeded, we should note; that many people die every 75 hours, every 3.1 days, in car accidents on our roads. If you want to be afraid of something, be afraid of getting in your car and driving on one of our freeways; there are drunk drivers out there trying to kill you. One person dies every 15 minutes.

And yet, almost every person who reads this will have no qualms about getting in a car, entering a freeway, and driving ten or more miles per hour above the speed limit. Many will also insist that young men and women of our armed forces be sent to fight and die in foreign lands to keep them safe from the foreign terrorists that they fear.

Tom Engelhardt has a piece entitled Hold Onto Your Underwear on this topic, in which he says, as I have been maintaining for years, that while foreign terrorism is a great evil and needs to be defended against, it is not any kind of national security issue.

Had the 23-year-old Nigerian set off his bomb, it would have been a nightmare for the people on board, and a tragedy for those who knew them. It would certainly have represented a safety and security issue that needed to be dealt with. But it would not have been a national emergency, nor a national-security crisis. It would have been nothing more than a single plane knocked out of the sky, something that happens from time to time without the intervention of terrorists.

To take that even one step further; in a worst case scenario, where a terrorist gets a nuclear device and destroys a city. That would be a disaster and human tragedy of unparalleled scope, but would it endanger this nation’s ability to function as a nation? Would it destroy freedoms, and civil rights and democracy that are at the core of what makes America the nation that it is? Of itself, no; only our reaction to such a tragedy could do that, and the cause of those losses would be us, not the event itself.

What we have to fear is not the event, for the chances that any individual one of us will be harmed in such an event is vanishingly small. What we have to fear is the cynical use of such an event by our own leadership for personal and political gain; preaching a sermon of fear to entrench themselves in power. We know that can happen.

It already has; in this nation in the first decade of this century.

No comments:

Post a Comment