Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prepare to be enraged if American

Today is a sad day in the USA, marking the 11th anniversary of the second attack on the World Trade Centre. Seeing those buildings go down horrified me. I feel for the people that were trapped in the buildings and died horribly. I have not the slightest doubt that their families still feel the loss of the people taken from them. Nothing I say here is to denigrate the dead, the innocent victims of the attack and the emergency responders who were doing their jobs as best they could. I'm on about the living.

Yet what has happened to America since then has horrified me even more. The stupid airline security theatre that can't even prevent that from happening again, let along whatever some evil genius comes up with for next time, and which costs billions of dollars while seriously inconveniencing millions of people. I suspect one could argue the USA has lost more in time and money through security idiocy in airports alone, than the entire attack, cleanup, and rebuilding cost.

The two useless wars that are essentially a re-creation of Vietnam the way the generals think it should have been. While doing the searches a little further on I think I saw a figure that said more soldiers have died in one or both of the optional wars than died in the attack on WTC, but that could easily be wrong.

But what really gets my goat is the holier than thou attitude about the attack, presenting it as the worst terrorism attack ever, anywhere, so bad it's the only one worth talking about. That the number of people killed is a huge unthinkable number, a good reason for the optional wars, the racism, and all the other debris bobbing in the wake of the attack. Yes it's certainly one of the worst, and it's fortunate that so many escaped.

But let's think about this rationally for a moment. WTC death toll in 2001 is about 2800. I'm rounding since I see a number of figures from different sources. Now lets look at some other deaths in the USA.

In 2010, there were 8775 murders by firearms in the USA. (source)
In 2009, there were 11493 homicides in the USA. (source)
In 2005, there were 12252 murders by firearms in the USA. (source)

Those happened to be the first three sources I found when I searched "USA deaths by firearms". Any of those numbers could be wrong by a bit, and they may not be properly comparable because of different methodologies in collecting and manipulating the data.

Now lets look at deaths in vehicle collisions, using search term "USA deaths from vehicle accidents". As you all know I really get cranky calling them accidents, but that that's what the world is calling them. Look, a wikipedia page showing deaths every year. You can look up the whole list if you want, and get carried away with a detailed analysis, or go find other sources if you don't like Wikipedia. I'm after the 30,000 foot view here.

Here are the three most recent years of data showing how many motor vehicle deaths happened in the USA.
2008 - 37261
2009 - 33808
2010 - 32885
Again, there may be methodology issues.

Let's just round the numbers a bit and say that:
3000 people died in WTC. Once.
10000 people per year, or 833 people a month died from firearms.
35000 people per year, or 2916 people per month died in motor vehicle "accidents".

So, the final layer of summary.
Every 4 months, Americans shoot as many other Americans as died in WTC.
Every month, month in and month out, a WTC happens on American roads.
Nobody cares enough to change anything in either case. Even suggesting that we think about discussing the possibility of examining if registering some firearms is a good idea will send the NRA into paroxysms of rage. If anything auto safety is even more untouchable. American driving and car ownership is all about freedom! Freedom with a capital F and maybe all caps. Y'all excuse me if I don't get worked up about the WTC deaths if you don't get worked up about far more of them, especially preventable ones.

I don't get it. That many deaths are important only if other people do it to you, but it's ok if you do it to yourself? Over and over again? Is it any wonder why so many people think that the USA has gone completely bonkers?

That was enough to start a pair of wars that have killed an unknown but large number of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Those people would certainly say that the drone attacks causing some of those deaths are terrorism. But the 168 people that died in Oklahoma City in 1995 has not prompted any response I can notice about eliminating these so called militia groups, or restricting the ability of these nut bars from getting assault weapons. Is it because they're mostly white? Or just another instance of society gone bonkers?

If America really thought that the lives of people were important, they'd do something about all these deaths. They would start restricting firearms like other civilized countries. And yes, I fear Canada, or more particularly Harper, has caught the American disease and is rolling back restrictions on gun ownership. They would do something about those vehicle deaths, like teaching people how to drive. I haven't even talked about heart disease. They would dial back on the military and start trying to be friends with other countries, rather than trying to bully them into doing America's corporate will against what is likely to be their own self interest. Hmm, maybe they've peed too much in that bowl of Wheaties for the next few generations of breakfast eaters.

All these things would start cutting the amounts on the cost side of the overall American budget. Throw in some tax increases and maybe they wouldn't fall over the fiscal cliff that is right there in plain sight. That would certainly make it easier for the rest of us to keep our houses in economic order, or restore them to that condition. But that would take some common sense, and caring about the average person, of which there is apparently not one shred to be had in all Congress, or if Kansas and Texas are anything to go by, in the State legislatures either.

As a followup, contrary to some American beliefs, they aren't the only country to suffer terrorism attacks. The English were subject to decades of terror bombing by the IRA, with an estimated 1800 people dying over about 30 years. Someone else can argue if it's better or worse to have one big attack, or many small ones at random times and many random places. Israel has probably been the most intensive target of terrorist attacks (yes, I know Palestinians would call them something else) of anybody. India had the attacks in Mumbai. The Russians had the Beslan massacre. All are horrible in their own way. It's a one downmanship contest that nobody really wins, and what's left behind are the living who miss their parents, siblings, or children.


  1. Ahh... I think you hit the nail on the head there on your last paragraph. People in the US freaked out because they had never even contemplated (not in a real way) the possibility of a foreign terrorist on their home soil. It was something that happened in other places, not here. It really shook the worldview of a lot of people. I am not offended by your post, and I am from Colorado (where it is legal to carry a gun without a permit as long as it isn't concealed. I am not joking). BUT. I would say that most people, not just in the US, but in the world, aren't thinking about this stuff most of the time. They are thinking about their job, dinner tonight, maybe how far they have to walk/bike/drive to go home and see their family. They are wondering if it is going to rain tomorrow, and if their kids will get good grades in school. Most people don't want to think about what the meat industry is doing to our bodies and our environment, most people don't want to think about what their cars are doing to the world, they don't want to think about wedge issues 24/7/ They just want to live.

  2. Wasn't the first WTC event, the one with the truck bomb, done by foreign nationals? I guess they forgot. After all, there are celebrities to follow, and junk food to eat. I remain astonished at USA gun laws. The mayor of Tampa banning squirt guns because they were dangerous, yet not banning real guns, because, well, thats FREEDOM, and RIGHTS and all that.

  3. Wonderfully and very well-written insightful post, Keith. Thanks for having the courage to post it!

  4. Thanks for commenting Janice! Always nice to hear from my readers.


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