Monday, December 27, 2010

Forget a nuke attack, we fear terrorists

I remember as a child how we ran drills in school where we were told to put our heads between our legs – in preparation for a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.
Even as an elementary school student, I wondered about the good this would do, except that it would mean that we wouldn’t have to actually see the end of our world as it imploded right in front of us.
FDR said during his first inaugural address that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet we’ve failed to heed his wise words.
Today, it’s not the fear of nuclear weapons that grips the nation in panic. It’s the fear of terrorism.
A new Rasmussen poll finds that 73 percent of Americans surveyed fear terrorism more so than they do nuclear attack. This comes on the wake of the Senate’s ratification of the new START treaty – which allows for the verification by the Russians and the Americans of one another’s nuclear stockpiles.
Why the two issues are considered mutually exclusive is beyond me. My only fear with regards to Russia’s nukes is that some may get into the hands of non-government actors. That’s another way to describe terrorists.
Which means that the two are intertwined. If we fear terrorist attacks, we should even more so fear terrorists who attack with nuclear weapons.
The odd thing is that the fear of terrorism is overblown.
Far more people die each year in the United States of car accidents than terrorist attacks. Heck, far more die from the flu. But, I guess, these are considered acceptable deaths. A death of an American to heart disease or diabetes or cancer doesn’t matter as much as the death of an American to a terrorist attack.
So we don’t fear car crashes. We don’t put the kind of money we do into homeland security to cure cancer or prevent other killer diseases.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t take prudent steps to protect ourselves against attacks. Of course we should. But to have an inordinate fear of terrorism is less logical than having a greater fear of disease.
Could it be that we’ve mixed up our priorities here just a bit?

Gary Baumgarten is News and Programming director at the Paltalk News Network.

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