If It’s Not Terrorism, Who Cares?

If It’s Not Terrorism, Who Cares?

Adrienne BoettingerWednesday,30 March 2016

I have mild social anxiety disorder and intermittent generalized anxiety disorder which means that I spend a lot of my waking hours worried about stuff that makes absolutely no sense to panic about. Embarrassing myself in front of friends, not knowing what I’m talking about at work, getting lost, being late for something, obsessing over my dog’s health, accidentally setting my house on fire, leaving my car unlocked, not being good enough, developing bipolar disorder, falling down a flight of stairs, choking in my house alone, ad nauseum, etc. These things can make me not want to leave my house. But most of the time I can function despite these worries because either my therapist talks me down from them or my overriding depression flattens me out so much that I lack the energy to get too anxious about any one thing for a lengthy period of time. Isn’t mental health fun?

But I digress…This isn’t the start of my tell-all memoir, it’s the lead-in for me to say if I’m not hyper-worried about terrorism, why are all you people who ostensibly are saner than me so freaked out? I’m not saying terrorism isn’t scary – that’s why it’s called ‘terrorism.’ If it weren’t frightening it would be called something else like ‘fluffy kittens riding on unicorns’ or ‘hot fudge sundaes as far as the eye can see’ or ‘all-u-can-drink brunch’. But terrorism is terrifying so at least there’s some truth in advertising.

We spend an estimated eleventy gazillion dollars fighting ‘terrorism’. We reduce political campaigns to if someone is ‘tough on terror’. We comfort ourselves that a plane was hijacked because a guy was an idiot and not because he was a terrorist. If a mass shooting is tied to terrorism, our politicians get all-fired up and want to do something even if it’s just to complain about the awful job our wimpy elected leaders are doing or sound like morons talking about technology they don’t understand. If a mass shooting isn’t tied to terrorism, we just say ‘don’t take away my guns’ and get back to pretending nearly 34,000 people a year don’t die from gun deaths in the United States.

We have gang violence and hate crimes, child pornography, sexual assault, human trafficking, and drug overdoses that all cost our society more in terms of lives and dollars than what is actually taken each year from terrorism. But the political will to deal with those other things doesn’t stand a chance compared to a terrorist attack a continent away.

I’m not saying we can or should ignore terrorism. But terrorism has existed for eons because it works. Because we do alter our lives and shift our priorities. Because we say human and civil rights are important but only up until the point where they butt up against our overriding fear of terrorism and then we’re not as sure of their importance.

Here’s the thing: committing an act of terrorism is way easier than not giving into the fear. No matter how impossible it might seem, blowing up yourself in an instant for something you really think you believe in is easier than living day after day, with no chance of glory, a humdrum life in which you are kind to people who are nasty to you. Loving those who hate you is harder than giving into the hate. And fearing, slandering, and demonizing those who are different than us is easier than getting to know them and realize that we are more alike than different.

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Image Credit: Mark Hooper on Flickr

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