Recently, a friend of mine wrote the following on Facebook:
Waking up to the horrible news of the movie theater shooting. I can’t even comprehend this.
What is the solution to protect ourselves and our families? Gun control? Do we need metal detectors and TSA agents at movie theaters as well?
These poor people were just trying to see a movie.
Suddenly the world feels a hell of a lot more evil and we are just so vulnerable:-(
Upon seeing this, I was compelled to write the following to her…
The world is not evil. We are no more vulnerable than we were 15 or 50 or 500 years ago. We are, however, much more scared. Ask anyone over the age of 40 and they will agree with me: even at the peak of the Cold War, Americans were never as frightened and willing to give up rights for security as in our modern age.
But, I am here to help. With historical perspective on American massacres, we can see that the world is a scary place, and always has been; but we can use that knowledge to control our fear. Allow me to select some major historical events from our lifetime. Obviously this isn’t a full list and, obviously, there were seriously brutal stuff that happened long before (NY Draft Riots, Lynching of Jesse Washington, etc.) – these are just what I have off the top of my head.
The San Ysidro Massacre (1984) – 22 dead, 19 wounded
The Cleveland School Massacre (1989) – 6 dead, 20 wounded
The University of Iowa Massacre (1991) – 6 dead, 1 wounded
The Luby’s Massacre (1991) – 24 dead, 20 wounded
The Los Angeles Riots (1992) – 53 dead, hundreds wounded
The California Street Massacre (1993) – 9 dead, 6 wounded
The Waco Massacre (1993) – 84 dead, hundreds wounded
The Oklahoma City Bombing (1996) – ~170 dead, ~700 wounded
The Murder of Matthew Shepard (1998) – one tortured to death
The Westside Massacre (1998) – 5 dead, 10 wounded
The Columbine Massacre (1999) – 15 dead, 21 injured
The Beltway Sniper (2002) – 10 dead, 3 injured
The Red Lake Massacre (2005) – 10 killed, 5 wounded
The Virginia Tech Massacre (2007) – 32 dead, 11 wounded
The Westroads Mall Massacre (2007) – 9 dead, 4 wounded
The Geneva County Massacre (2009) – 11 dead, 6 wounded
The Denver Massacre (2012) – 12 dead, 59 wounded
Now, I don’t do this to downplay recent events in Denver – that is not my point. I’m just trying to give some perspective. And I kept it American-on-American violence; I didn’t mention foreigner-on-American attacks, but you’ll soon see what. I also left out Ted Kaczynski and plenty of other random acts of violence that resulted in high death tolls.
Now, if you look, we should have all been shitting our pants throughout the 90s. After the murder rate went up 60% between 1965-1970, and continued statically around 1:10,000 until the tail end of the 1990s, why weren’t we all living in bomb shelters instead of going to school? Why, now, with a murder rate half of what it was when we were growing up, are we all so damned scared???
What major event (which just so happened to happen right after the murder rate went way down) spawned a Media Explosion focusing news on the most fear-inspiring events available?
The event also spawned a flood of legislation eliminating rights and freedoms for the sake of a security that had not actually gotten any worse than it was.
And here we are. Scared shitless because “History” has become “Current Events.” The Media has effectively turned the attention span of a human into that of a gerbil.
It’s powerful, baby.
Oh, yeah, one last note.
At our worst murder rate in America, which was around 1:10,000 – that statistical probability now applies to another terrifying thing in America:
The odds of contracting HIV through heterosexual unprotected sex are the same as our worst murder rate in history.
In other words:
If you were kickin’ it with 10,000 random dudes, you would have to have sex with all of them to statistically get HIV.
In order to get yourself shot, you’d have to hang out with 20,000 random dudes.
Now, think on this. How likely do you see yourself getting HIV from unprotected sex? Seriously. Most of us are pretty freaked out about that. “Wrap it up, every time.” Even though the statistic is what it is. Now look at guns! Look how scared we are of guns, despite the statistics.
Oh, yeah. You know what else has an odds of 1:10,000?
Dying in an automobile accident.
Don’t forget to tip your waitresses!!!
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