Friday, May 09, 2008

on losing our freedoms

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Seattle for a weekend and came to the conclusion that those who think that fear is not curtailing our freedoms are just plain out to lunch. At both ends, we had to take off our shoes and empty all our pockets. I had to take my night breathing machine out of my carry-one (I don't check it for the same reason I don't check my medications) so they could wand it, going over it with some device in such a way that it looked as if they were putting a magic spell on it. I had to empty my pockets, take my belt off and hold up my pants with one hand while taking my watch off, and walk across a dirty floor in my stocking feet. Maybe I left some athlete's foot fungus on the floor for the people following. It was much more complicated than the last time I flew. That is fear caused by the possibility that a terrorist will get on a plane and bring it down, killing me and all the others on board. Did it make me feel safer? No, it didn't. Airplanes crash and much more frequently than terrorism brings them down. I'm also used to the fear of being killed on the highway or by the food I eat. Being killed by food, on the highway or by a fault in an airplane or a pilot probably has lower odds than being killed by terrorist activity. I realize of course that it is always a massacre to the person who is killed, but what is this wiilling surrender of freedoms for a fear of something that has killed a very small number of American citizens. We've had more people killed by other means in a year than we had die on 9/11. Before you say I have no empathy, let me tell you I feel the terror that the people who died on that day and the pain of their survivors. I also remember Oklahoma City where about a tenth of the same number, many of them children, were killed by home grown terrorist. But it is not rational to let our leaders curtail our freedoms, that we have held dear for more than 200 years, because of our fears that we will die in something much rarer than the risk we take each day when someone runs a stopsign or a stoplight, or drinks and drives. We are not very good risk calculaters.


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