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Our Fears: Terrorism and Guns

Headines are blasting out: “Fear of Terrorism Grips the Country.” And “Terrorist Attack Boosts Trump.”

I don’t get it. We’ve had two terrorist attacks, separated by a fourteen year gap. In this latest in San Bernardino fourteen people died. Everyone should be concerned but this panic whipping across the land is just not rational.

Close to 35,000 people die every year in the US from guns and tens of thousands of others are wounded. Yet everyone seems to accept this as “normal.” Why isn’t there a long howl of outrage over this? Why aren’t we in a state of fear and trepidation? Your chance of getting gunned down by some random character with a gun and an attitude, or a gun and a mental disorder, or a gun and a grudge or a gun and no clue about gun safety or a … is thousands of times more likely than being caught up in a terrorist attack.

Color me confused.

Reader Comments (2)

Fear itself is never rational. The question is whether there is a rational basis for the source or cause of fear. The connection now isn't a simple single instance of violence. Many people in America perceive that a visible, vocal and active segment of Muslim culture wishes to damage, destroy and exterminate us. The fear people feel comes from a strong, basic form of inductive logic, the kind that begets racism and primal responses: A red and black snake bit and killed my grandmother; therefore, all red and black snakes are to be feared. That inductive logic runs from the specific to the general. It is useful in the jungle; without considering subtleties, it can lead to racism and the exclusion of anyone unlike us.

There is credence in the notion that Americans face significant danger from that minority of Muslims ... and the potential danger is significant. What is happening now is entirely a valuable human trait, which is a logical combining of observed events and then anticipating what might happen. There was the Iran revolution, in which Muslims harmed Americans and made it clear we were the enemy, the Great Satan. There were bombings, 9/11, the first World Trade Center bombing, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran's nuclear program, Libya ... and a substantial number of other occurrences in which it's certain that a significant number of Muslims consider this to be a war to the end. One cannot be so obtuse as to not realize that there must be Pakistani military people, some in the highest echelons, who sympathize with radical Muslims and would, in the blink of an eye, provide the extremists with nuclear materials.

The problem isn't today, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. San Bernardino, in sheer numbers, had hardly greater casualties than a foggy freeway pileup. Those two Muslim extremists were but two in number and possessed relatively primitive weapons with limited killing ability, especially given the forces they ultimately faced (numerous police.) But, Arthur, just as Israel lives beneath the shadows of daggers, homemade bombs, semi-automatic weapons, artillery, troops and tanks ... and, in the near future, nuclear weapons ... so now do we.

Two oceans separate us from the Middle East. Because of that, we here on the North American continent do not have to fear tanks, troops, military bombers and nuclear missiles. But there will be other San Bernardinos, and it is probably only a matter of time before there is an event here that makes 9/11 look small.

That is what people fear ... the hatred and determination of Muslims (in response much because of what we have done but also because the extremists' puritanical version of religion is based on 7th century principles similar to End of Days.) People anticipate escalation that is surely to come. There will be a dirty bomb one day. It is only a matter of time. It could happen in Israel first. That is my prediction. But people here aren't stupid in 'feeling' that lines are drawn in the sand, that for some there will be a war resulting in extermination.

December 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mallet

Just to make it abundantly clear: In my comments, I refer to a tiny minority of Muslims who now are violent extremists, just as there is now a tiny minority of Christian and Jewish extremists. I do not ascribe to that black and white perversion of inductive logic that one killer snake of a certain stripe or color means they all are.

December 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mallet

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