FDR Was Right
I was talking with a friend the other day, and she was telling me about the trip that she and her husband were planning. It was to be in two week...in France.
Needless to say, the couple is now uncertain of their plans. And though she said they'll likely still go, it's something they'll be sitting down to discuss.
I can completely understand their concern. It’s such a horrible situation what happened in Nice. As well as earlier in the year in Paris. And I told her that I don't know what I would do in their situation. While I suspect the same as them, probably go, it's impossible to know until I faced it. It’s a very real question.
I did offer one piece of information, though. Not offered remotely as “advice” but as perspective to throw in the mix when they talk things over.
Terrorism is often viewed from the deaths it causes, and that view understandably overwhelms most other thoughts about it -- but the reality is that the main intent of terrorism is generally to cause paralyzing fear. Which is does overwhelmingly more than cause deaths. The tragedy in Nice killed 84 people, which is gut-wrenching. And understandably it got world news, headlines around the clock, the near-entirety of the news cycle, and kept France as a nation under Emergency Law.
For perspective’s sake, last year in the U.S., 38,000 people were killed by cars. That works out to averaging 105 people killed a day. Every single day. Day after day after unrelenting day. 105 people killed in a car accident today and tomorrow and the next day and day after and after. Non-stop. Month after month after year after year after year. 105 people killed by a car every single day. Yet no one even blinks at that. We accept it, almost without thought. We accept it as the price of the convenience, to the extent that most people don't even see it as a price. The sun comes up and 105 people will be killed by a car that day. And the next. And yesterday. And the day before. And before. Pass the coffee. I of course understand the situations are different. But they're not as totally different as one might try to make them. The intent is different, but the end result the same. And for all the differences, context still helps.
Or another perspective: Last year, throughout all of Western Europe, under 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks for the entire year. More people than that we killed by car crashes in the U.S. over just two days.
Or from 2001-2014 (that’s as far as the stats went), more American were killed by falling furniture (293) than by terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the U.S. combined.
I know that it’s one thing to read cold, dispassionate “stats” and another thing to personally face a reality. And I don’t know what the proper answer is to my friends' travel plans -- or anyone's travel plans. Or concerns over the horrors of terrorism. It’s deeply serious, tragic and worrisome. And significantly more so in other areas of the world that western society is separated from. But I still just passed along the information to my friends as one thing to include in their discussion.
Because in the end, the point of terrorism is...to terrorize. And one death can do that. And "intent" is a problem of its own. But the expanded reality is that long before the concerns of terrorism, as well as during the concerns, we have had mass killing by crazed people who also intended to do harm. Whether in all the mass shootings that we know of all too well, or domestic violence, or bombings like in Oklahoma City or at abortion clinic, or anyone there were sick people out to cause harm. And not only do they rarely bring society to a screeching halt, but we're often told, "Now is not the time" to concern ourselves with fixing them.
The deaths in Nice were galling. 84 people dead. And more attacks throughout the world.
But last year, in just the United States alone, 38,000 people were killed by cars. Around the world, the number becomes astronomical -- 1.24 million people are killed by cars a year, every year. There are 32,000 people killed with a gun each year, in only the U.S.. 370,000 people around the world drown each year. 1.2 million people in the U.S. alone die every year of heart disease or cancer. And almost none of this phases people. Death is a sad part of our lives we mourn and accept.
Terrorism is a worldwide problem that not only must be addressed, but is. The point of terrorism is to paralyze people with fear.
In Nice, 84 people were tragically killed, and the world came to a halt. It was a horrific, sickening act. And the very same day, 3,400 other people around the world were killed by a car. And no one gave it a thought. And 3,400 more people died in a car death the next day. And the next. And will again today. And will tomorrow.
Yes, in terrorism, someone is making an intentional attempt to cause many deaths. But so too was someone attempting to do the same at people going to see a movie in Aurora. Or those going to see Trainwreck at a movie theater in Lafayette. Or students just going to school at Columbine -- or going to school at Virginia Tech or at New Town. Or those working in Oklahoma City. Or at any of the other far-too many just as intentional mass killings that are caused by someone who wasn't a terrorist. All of which were intentional, to just masses of people. Yet which have caused far more deaths. On and on and on, just as regularly. Yet none of this has stopped people from going to movies or going to school or going to work. Or brought about national emergency laws. Or even simply changed national laws for the use of a gun. (We can't even pass a law to prohibit a suspected terrorist on the No-Fly List from owning a gun.) We mourned, offered prayers, and went on with our lives. The world did not come to a half .Which the world shouldn't. Yet when 84 people are killed by what is presumed to be a terrorist -- though not yet even established -- we (for absolutely human reasons) consider not even traveling to a country. And half the country nominates a man for president who wants to ban all people because of their faith from simply entering the border.
Society must and does work to contribute massive resources to combat terrorism. It is a much-too real and devastating threat. And if we kept doing that and also put one-tenth the effort, money, time and attention to combat cancer, heart disease, guns, cars safety, all the seemingly insignificant oversights that kill so many in the U.S. and around the world, even things that appear so small and almost stupid as the ability to swim and poorly-made furniture -- we might be able to save the lives of several million people a year around the world. Each and every single year. After year. After year. Millions. Including you. And me.
This is not said at all to diminish concerns or raise awareness of anything. It is to put a perspective on what the world is focused on, in order to better address all what needs to be addressed.
The point of terrorism is to paralyze people with fear. And it is always easier to work to solve a problem -- any problem, all problems, always, since the beginning of time -- when you are not paralyzed with fear.
We work to solve problems. We mourn loss. And the only thing we have to fear, it turns out, is indeed fear itself.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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