Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Some acts of terror terrify us more than others




     You are going to be killed this afternoon.  
     In one of two ways — hypothetically, I rush to point out. This is a thought experiment, not a warning.
     The first potential manner of your death: You are walking along Wacker Drive, smiling at the sky, when a truck driven by a religious fanatic veers onto the sidewalk and kills you.
     The second: You are at work, calling up a spreadsheet, when a disgruntled former employee bursts in and shoots you.
     Both deaths are instantaneous. Which do you prefer?
     As the victim, it hardly matters. Either way, you're just as dead. Your family misses you just as much.
     Had you foreknowledge, you would try to spare yourself from either attack with equal vigor. In both cases, you would no doubt avoid the fatal spot — Wacker Drive or the office. You would notify authorities of the peril.
     Yet that is not how society approaches such killings. We do not view them with equal attention, equal seriousness. Nor do we try to avoid both situations equally. Attacks such as the one Saturday on the London Bridge that killed seven are acts of terrorism that demand international attention, global grief and brisk action. We demand something be done.
     While the shooting Monday at an awning factory in Florida is generally ignored. Five dead, but nothing to be done, or even contemplated. We hardly care what the motive was. Something work-related.

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5 comments:

  1. Glad this is in the paper today. Not that I have high hopes that the public will suddenly see the light and begin to confront their own prejudices, but maybe a few will.

    john

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  2. Great column. I remember when the Justice Dept. did a report on the threat of terrorism from extremist right-wing groups, and Fox News etc. were absolutely beside themselves with indignation that the government would dare to make negative generalizations about anyone on the right. These guys really resent it when anyone tries to feed them even a tiny bit of what they dish out to Muslims every day.

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  3. Herr Trump's attack on the dignified Mayor of London was particularly embarrassing, given the fact that the recent terrorist incidents there only slightly altered the fact that the probability of dying from a violent criminal act in London is about a quarter of that in any large American city. And the fact that, at least an older generation of Londoners take pride in their resilience after enduring fourtysome thousand deaths during the Blitz. Noel Coward, sitting on a park bench viewing the devastation in 1941 wrote a sentimental song about it.

    "London Pride has been handed down to us
    London Pride is a flower that's free
    London Pride means our own dear town to us,
    And our pride it for ever will be."

    Being resilient doesn't mean being unaffected. Some ten years after the war had ended I remember viewing a movie set during the "second blitz," when the V1's and V2's started coming over. The former were psychologically the more terrifying because people knew that when the sound of their pulse jet engines cut out a devastating explosion would follow. When that happened on the screen a little lady sitting next to me in the Cottage Grove Cinema grabbed my arm tightly.

    Tom Evans

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  4. Never heard the distinction between individual and group identity illustrated that way. Brilliant. As a side note, 43 people died in the US in shootings on that day alone, 6/3, just not all in one place--http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/number-of-gun-deaths?page=3

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  5. Love the photo -- there seems to be so much going on individually and collectively, internally and externally. I can hardly manage to keep one person within a shot, while you capture dozens, all interesting characters, from the rosy cheeked old timer to the young lass with "I'm a very busy..." on her shirt to the guy in the background looking suspiciously at the photographer.

    John

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