I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:
Reading some people’s knee-jerk “Bomb ’em all!” responses to various attacks. It got me thinking about the Hunger Games series, and how President Snow responds to Katniss Everdeen’s actions in the 75th Hunger Games by bombing her entire district into oblivion.
Y’all understand Snow was one of the villains, right?
This generated a number of supportive comments, which is no surprise, given the amplification effects of social media. It also triggered arguments about gun control, religious intolerance, idealism vs. reality, and questions about my kid getting shot in the face.
Like most Americans, I don’t have a full understanding of life in the Middle East, the political and religious realities people there are living with. I do know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. I know many of those Muslims in the Middle East live in regions of instability and war. I know many of them are on the ground fighting back against terror, or simply fighting to survive. Many are trying to escape threats like ISIS/Daesh.
We see innocent people murdered by terrorists, and we feel angry. We feel afraid. We feel powerless, and we want to do something. I get that.
Why are we afraid? What is it we’re afraid of? One American commenter talked about her fear of people who want to kill her for being female and not wearing a veil.
We’ve had a total of 26 people killed in jihadist attacks in the U.S. in the past decade. (Source) The most recent data I could find showed 24 U.S. citizens killed in terrorism incidents overseas in 2014. (Source)
In the meantime, three women are killed in the U.S. by their boyfriends every day. (Source) If we’re going to talk about threats against women, terrorists aren’t anywhere near the top of that list.
Or compare those terrorism numbers to the 11,208 firearms-related assault deaths in the U.S. in 2013, or the 4,913 non-firearms assault deaths. Hell, a U.S. citizen is 74 times more likely to die of the flu than of ISIS-style terrorists, but I don’t see anyone changing their Facebook icons to promote flu vaccines. (Source)
This doesn’t mean we should ignore terrorism. It doesn’t mean we turn our backs on the victims in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad and elsewhere.
What it means to me is that we need to do a better job of recognizing our fears, of assessing what it is we’re so afraid of, what we should be afraid of, and how we choose to respond to various threats. We’re so fired up about our war on terrorism. Where’s our war on domestic violence, which is a far greater threat to the people of the United States? Why are we so quick to fear in one case, but not another?
Some of it is media-fueled, of course. Terrorist attacks against white people get a lot of coverage, and so they take up a lot of real estate in our brains.
There’s also that ongoing Us vs. Them mentality. We see Muslims as “them,” no matter how many speak out against terror, no matter how many Muslims save lives in these attacks, no matter how many Muslims are on the ground fighting and dying in the ongoing battle against ISIS.
Emotions suck when it comes to understanding statistics.
Human beings have to be better than that. We have to be smarter.
I’m all for fighting against terrorism. I want my family and my country to be safe. I want innocent people to stop dying.
“Bomb the Muslims!” isn’t going to accomplish that. Turning our backs on people who need help, leaving them to suffer and die, isn’t going to accomplish that. Fear and hatred of Muslims isn’t going to accomplish that.
In fact, that very fear and hatred and intolerance is exactly what ISIS wants from us.
These terrorist attacks were committed with the goal of increasing our intolerance and our fear and our violent reactions, and in so doing, driving more people into the arms of ISIS.
I don’t have all the answers. But I know one thing. I have no intention of helping terrorists.