Terrorism

Nobody can watch the video of the bombing of Ariana Grande’s in Manchester – a concert attended by innocent youth – and not be shocked at the carnage. No reasonable person can fathom the thinking that convinces a man to strap on an explosive – designed to inflict the maximum suffering – and blow himself up in a crowd. The depravity – and pointlessness of it – are shocking.

But we must maintain a sense of proportion.

In America, there are 16,000 murders a year. The equivalent of 727 Manchester bombings. The CDC reports 99,000 die from healthcare-associated infections. A study by Johns Hopkins estimates that 250,000 people die annually due to medical errors. And Canadians live three years on average longer than Americans.

Yet we worry far more about the ridiculously remote possibility of dying in a terrorist attack, then we do about dying from all of the things that actually kill us. The top two of which are heart disease and cancer – accounting for almost half of all deaths.

It is unfathomable why politicians, who casually lobby for billions to be added to the Pentagon budget, propose slashing the budget of the National Institutes of Health. The Chinese aren’t going to attack us. Not militarily anyway. Why should they? Economically they are eating our lunch.

The Monroe Doctrine warned Europeans that the United States would not tolerate any new colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. But now the Chinese are engaged in economic colonialism in South America – and Africa for that matter – and we don’t seem to pay it the least regard.

But back to what kills Americans. Let’s consider Alzheimer’s (#6 on the list). It kills 94,000 and devastates the lives of both the victim and his family – usually for years. Let’s research the hell of that the causes of, and cures for, that catastrophic disease.

Or how about diabetes (#7)? Type 2 accounts for 95% of cases and is closely linked with obesity and lack of exercise. Yet when Michele Obama instituted her ‘Let’s Move’ program challenging America’s youth to get active and schools to provide healthier food, the Republicans reacted as if she had invited ISIS in America’s back door.

Cleaner air and water, food safety inspections, and mandated testing for drugs have reduced deaths. But the same politicians who would throw billions at fighting terrorism rail against business regulation. I can only assume that to them profit takes precedence over people. And of course business money talks.

It’s not that we haven’t addressed death in America. Despite the whining of corporations, we finally banned lead in paint and gasoline. Anti-smoking campaigns have halved the number of smokers. M.A.D.D’s campaigns led to a 75% reduction in the rate of drunk driving deaths. Mandatory seatbelt and airbag laws – as well as federally mandated safety tests – have slashed the rate of traffic fatalities.

Death gets little airtime – or much consideration in government. Unless it is spectacular. A video of a shark attack will dominate newscasts. And if a plane crashes, CNN won’t talk about anything else for a week. Meanwhile, statistically, no American will die in a terrorist attack, an airplane crash or from a shark bite.

We cannot let our battle against terrorism blind us to the fact that there is much that can be done to make a meaningful difference to the life expectancy of Americans.

 

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