Every three days, a 747's worth of people die on our highways. And it's not worth headlines. We're a mighty nation of 300 million people. People die. Some 40,000 people die on our roads every year. Anybody in that business knows if we all drove 20 miles an hour slower, we'd save thousands of precious lives. But in the privacy of the voting booth, is the average American going to vote to drive 50 mph on our freeways to save thousands of lives? Hell, no. We've got places to go.
Consider handguns. Thirteen thousand people die every year in our country because of handguns. You could make the case that that's a reasonable price to pay for the precious right to bear arms. We are a free and well-educated democracy. We know the score. And year after year, we seem to agree that spending these lives is a fair trade-off for enjoying our Second Amendment right.
Germans decided not to have that right to bear arms, and consequently they lose about 1,000 people a year to handgun deaths. Europeans (who suffer less than a quarter the per capita gun killings we do) laugh out loud when they hear that Americans are staying home for safety reasons. If you care about your loved ones (and understand the statistics), you'll take them to Europe tomorrow.
If we dispassionately surveyed the situation, we might similarly accept the human cost of our aggressive stance on this planet. We spend untold thousands of lives a year for the rights to drive fast and bear arms. Perhaps 300 million Americans being seen by the rest of the world as an empire is another stance that comes with an unavoidable cost in human lives.
I know this is wild, but imagine we downgraded our "war on terror." Fantasize for a moment about the money and energy we could save, and all the good we could do with those resources if they were compassionately and wisely diverted to challenges like global warming or the plight of desperate people (in lands that have no oil or natural resources) whose suffering barely registers in the media. Imagine then the resulting American image abroad — we'd be tougher for our terrorist enemies to demonize. And imagine the challenge that would present terrorist recruiters.
About This Entry
You are reading "Terrorism by the Numbers", an entry posted on 03 June 2009 by Rick Steves.