Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What are the odds?

Since 9/11, Americans have been gripped with an almost all-consuming fear of terrorism. I'm convinced that this is the reason so many people are willing to let their government do virtually anything, as long as it's ostensibly done in the name of Fighting Terrorists.

(To any pro-Bush people who might be reading this, my question is, how far is too far? What could the government do that would be too extreme for you? As a society right now we seem basically comfortable with torture, imprisonment without representation, curtailing press freedoms, and warrantless spying on American citizens. What exactly is left?)

The thing is, your chances of getting killed by a terrorist on American soil are almost laughably small. You're 1,300 times more likely to die at the hands of a cigarette than a terrorist. 1,300.

But let's take a more realistic example. You're 85 times more likely to die in an auto accident in this country than be killed by a terrorist. But would you support the President severely curtailing your rights, in order to possibly reduce the threat of auto accidents? He could make everyone take a road test every year. He could require auto makers to encase their vehicles in bubble wrap. The punishment for a moving violation would be 10 years in Guantanamo. Also, only one car per household. After all, fewer cars, fewer accidents. Heavy drinkers, turned in by neighbors, could be spied on to make sure they wouldn't get behind the wheel. Drunk driving gets the death penalty.

Sound OK? I mean, why doesn't the President campaign on his ability to save us from auto accidents? They are orders of magnitude more of a threat to the safety and security of you and your family than getting gassed or nuked or otherwise blown up by dusky people with strange religions.

We know this intellectually. But in the Hindbrain Administration, thinking takes a backseat. That's where we get in trouble.

HOMER: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
LISA: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
HOMER: Thank you, dear.
LISA: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
HOMER: Oh, how does it work?
LISA: It doesn't work.
HOMER: Uh-huh.
LISA: It's just a stupid rock.
HOMER: Uh-huh.
LISA: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
HOMER: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
It's time we stop shopping for rocks.

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