Yesterday, we reported on the U.S. State Department’s worldwide travel alert. How big of deal are these things? Well, they aren’t massive — in 2013, during a similar warning period, President Obama went on Jay Leno and played it pretty cool:
I think the general rule is just show some common sense and some caution. So there are some countries where you’re less likely to experience a terrorist attack. There are some where there are more dangers. And if people are paying attention, checking with the State Department or embassy, going on the website before you travel, find out what kind of precautions you should be taking, then I think it still makes sense for people to take vacations. They just have to make sure that they’re doing so in a prudent way.
Which feels like a perfect take on the matter. Except that fear is a funny thing. It picks at you when you least expect it. It gnaws on your psyche — nibbling at first, then gulping down huge chucks of your capacity for rational thought.
I have kids.
I have a partner.
Why risk it?
It’s not necessarily the possibility of death that’s so scary, either. Death can come from anywhere and it comes from a lot of places far more often than it comes from terrorism. No, it’s the suddenness, the lack of control, and the raw brutality of the violence that creates this fear in us.
We are socialized to drive cars and we secretly believe that we’re better drivers than everyone else — so we drive our cars without being scared. But even after September 11 and the numerous attacks since, the threat of terrorism (at home or abroad; perpetrated by the Islamic State or a lone radical) is something we don’t feel acclimated to.
Getting killed at the hands of a terrorist is like getting killed by one of those parasites that lie dormant in your brain for 30 years and then decimate it all at once. It’s horrifying and we have no real way to anticipate or mitigate the devastation.
So if we can somehow decrease our risks by staying home, then…maybe we should?