Sunday, June 4, 2017


I'll gladly accept a .0001% risk of getting blown up rather than tolerate a sizable reduction in freedom.

Many disagree; mostly "small government" proponents demanding seamless government protection, who stoke aggression and violence with their fear-based tough-guy rhetoric. These bellicose, frightened souls, pining for strongman statism, are the very ones normally hollering about freedom and preservation of traditional values.

My sympathies to the families of the latest victims, and my thanks to the brave first responders, but acts of terrorism dwarfed by the day's traffic fatalities represent a level of risk far below what we all happily accept for the relatively puny freedom to drive to the 7-11 in a personal tin can of internal combustion. As for rarer, larger acts: how wound up are we about earthquakes, tsunamis, and flu?

Let's defend, as we can, against all societal risks and threats, duh...but retain some perspective. Just 'cuz it's called terrorism doesn't mean we need to be full-on terrified, making all the familiar mistakes of a panicked citizenry.

On further consideration, I've decided I'm uncomfortable with my comparison to auto deaths. Unlike deaths from driving accidents or natural disasters, terrorism has potential to self-reinforce and to escalate. The driver of a Dodge Charger that accidentally hits a minivan isn't recruiting other drivers to wreak more havoc, nor does he dream of getting his hands on a dirty bomb. And tsunamis don't spur copycat tsunamis.

Crime's different from other perils, and terrorism is far more serious than crime. So while I wasn't exactly drawing an analogy (rather, I was pointing out our otherwise high tolerance for risk in the pursuit of freedom), I want to acknowledge that any such comparison would be horribly inapt.

That said, I'll stick with the narrow argument I was actually making: terrorism, as it stands, is just one of many perils, and, in day to day life of citizens, barely registers as a risk in the scheme of things despite wild sensationalization. It's important to bear firmly in mind that we've always decided, as a society, that we're willing - even staunchly eager - to forego safety for freedom.

Insistence on perfect protection at any cost is irrational, unrealistic, unAmerican, and unnecessary (though, once again, we do need to do all we REASONABLY can....and reasonable minds can certainly disagree about what constitutes reasonability).

Ideally, I'd prefer zero risk of harm. But we moderns luxuriate in a safety level unimaginable to any of our forebears (though there's a cliff in the Canary Islands poised to suddenly dump gigantic quantities of earth into the ocean, spurring a tidal wave that could obliterate the American east coast...and those crafty flu viruses are always mutating). Our freedom and our values, however, remain tottery. For me, those chips are way more valuable.

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