You Aren’t Safe

I read so many of those stories after 9/11 and they all made me insane, the stories about some asshole in a mall in Oklahoma saying that what had happened to New York had made him go back to church, or made her call her mother, or inspired them to go back to church or change into a complete pile of garbage and paint their chests red white and blue and beat up Sikh cab drivers.

If you needed 9/11 to teach you that you were not safe, the proper response was not to freak the fuck out, it was to thank God that you hadn’t had that lesson beat into you years ago, by your neighborhood or your country or your family or yourself.

The people who have the most cause to worry are not the ones who use that worry as an excuse to be gigantic babies: 

“The rest of the country is more paralyzed by the fear of terrorism,” said Mr. Grim, an attorney from Brooklyn. “People in New York understand there is risk.”

And anyway it’s useless, cats and kittens. The most important thing you can figure out is that it’s useless. The most important truth is we’re not safe, and we never were, and we never will be: 

Twenty refugee terrorists have attacked or attempted attacks, but they only managed to kill three people—all in the late 1970s before the creation of the modern refugee screening system. The annual chance of being killed in a terrorist attacked committed by refugees is one in 3.6 billion a year. Ten illegal immigrants were terrorists, but they only managed to kill one person—meaning your chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by an illegal immigrant is one in 10.9 billion a year.

By comparison, your chance of being murdered by anyone is 1 in 14,000. In other words, your chance of being murdered is 253 times as great as dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner on U.S. soil.

And it shouldn’t take a terrorist attack to remember that. It shouldn’t take a Sandy Hook to make you hug your kids. It shouldn’t take a guy getting pasted on the freeway to make you make sure the last thing you say to your spouse every single day is “I love you.” This isn’t me saying “live every day like it’s your last” or some cheap bullshit. This is me saying every day is somebody’s last and that person’s purpose is not to make you more or less scared.

It’s to do what we all are supposed to do, which is to be a fucking human being, and try to stay alive, and try to grow and change and push and love one another, and to rise up as high as we can. That’s the point of what we’re doing here. That’s all there is.


2 thoughts on “You Aren’t Safe

  1. Good stuff, A. In American Heiress, Jeffrey Toobin makes the point that the 1970’s were the age of the bomber. There’s nothing new under the sun.

  2. As usual, I blame the Republicans for this nonsense, but there’s some residual blame to be apportioned to Democrats as well. Here’s what I mean:

    After the September 11 attacks, Dubya got real fond of saying that his top priority was ensuring the safety of the American people. He said it, his administration personnel said it, the popular media said it, and his voters said it. That didn’t make it true. The president’s top job is not to protect the American people, it’s to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. In the name of protecting the American people, the Bush administration took any number of little shortcuts through and end runs around the Constitution. None of it made us any safer.

    But the concept gained a lot of unquestioned acceptance, so much so that I’ve caught President Obama mouthing the sentiment that his main job is protecting the American people. I have no doubt that Obama means something quite different from what Bush meant, but that doesn’t really make it any better. Obama will leave office in January, and his successor will feel obliged to say it, too. It’s just wrong, and it needs to stop. Any of us can die in a horrible terrorist attack tomorrow, and the United States will still exist. But if the Constitution goes away, so does the United States.

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