Where Are the Adults in the Room?

Rodney WarnerI saw a show on magic on TV last night. One point that was covered was the misunderstanding of misdirection. It’s thought that magicians get away with their tricks by misdirecting the audience’s attention to one thing while they do something else. The reality is they focus the audience’s attention on one thing and our brains naturally lose focus on everything else. The politicians and the media are doing the same thing with terrorism and we’re losing sight of what’s really important.

The coverage is non-stop. Fears are raised. Terrorism is a terrible thing and should be stopped, but there always have been terrorists and always will be. The causes, technology and harm change, but terrorism continues and will as long as there are human beings willing and able to kill each other.

It was estimated by the State Department that in 2011, 17 Americans were killed by terrorists worldwide. That year Americans were statistically nine times more likely to be killed by police than terrorists. Each year about,

  • 560,000 Americans are killed by cancer,
  • 610,000 by heart disease,
  • 300,000 by diabetes or the disease contributed to the death,
  • 100,000 to 440,000 die due to medical mistakes in hospitals, and
  • 35,000 in traffic accidents (about 13,000 involving drunk drivers).

Worldwide it was estimated that in 2012 15,500 people were killed by terrorists, which is 15,500 too many. But that’s less than half of the number of people killed in traffic accidents, and drunk drivers killed almost as many people just in the U.S. If we’re in a war against terrorism, why not wage a war against drunk drivers? They’re doing almost as much damage as terrorists and unlike the much feared Syrian refugees (Watch out! It’s a Syrian child!), they really are here among us. They live next door, are our co-workers, our family members, maybe even ourselves.

Remember the war on cancer that President Nixon announced? I guess we lost that one too.

Do you hear any of this being discussed by politicians? Presidential candidates? The media? Why not? Because they profit from and take advantage of our fears. Addressing reality is not a priority because it doesn’t generate attention and doesn’t generate money.

The fiscal year 2016 budget for the Dept. of Homeland Security is $41.2 billion. The same fiscal year budget for the National Cancer Institute is $4.95 billion. Every two days cancer kills as many Americans as the number of people who died in the 9/11 attack. How much would this nation spend, how many people would be involved, how high a priority would it be to stop a terrorist group that was committing a 9/11 attack every other day on American soil?

Dying in a terrorist attack is a terrible thing and these deaths should be prevented, but dying of cancer is pretty terrible too. Cancer kills just as thoroughly as bullets or bombs do, only millions more of us are killed by cancer than terrorists.

Our attention, and the attention of those in power, is focused on the wrong thing. In our “data driven” world is it too much to ask the government, with its limited resources, address the actual threats to us, instead of addressing our fears? Is it too much to ask of those in power to act like the “adults in the room” instead of like children?

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