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Vigilance Wins Against Terror, Not Fear

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., recently, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2018 budget. (Susan Walsh/AP)

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Friday, 02 Jun 2017 02:59 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One in 30,000. One in 10,000,000. One in 160,000,000. They aren’t lottery odds, but the chances that your commercial flight will be hijacked.

There are 30,000 passenger flights per day in America — ten million per year. Factor in no hijacked jets since 9/11, and the number skyrockets to 160 million flights without a terrorist takeover.

Yet many still live in fear, reluctant to fly in the belief that their flight will be "the next one" targeted. Irrational? Absolutely, but who can blame them? Americans are bombarded by fearmongers on TV and radio (hosts and guests alike) hawking apocalyptic proclamations that the next attack is imminent. "It’s not a question of if, but when," we’ve been constantly warned for years, so be very afraid.

Such irresponsibility was punctuated this week when Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated, "If you knew what I knew about terrorism, you’d never leave the house." Secretary Kelly should be ashamed of himself for stoking fear. Ironically, his actions actually imperil citizens, since decisions made in fear are almost always wrong.

Some have tuned messages like that one out; unfortunately many haven’t. For those, succumbing to a culture of fear applies to all aspects of life — traveling, going to the mall, attending a concert. And we’ve all heard the rationalizations. The country is going down the tubes, the world is upside down, crazy people are everywhere.

There’s only one problem, it’s simply untrue.

If fact, although this might be difficult to fathom at first blush, we are living in a period of unprecedented peace, wealth, and health — both here and abroad. So despite our collective perception that the world is going to hell, exacerbated by 24/7 media coverage, the reality is that we are living in the safest period in human history.

Consider that crime in America is at an all-time low. Violent crime rate has plummeted 51 percent since 1991, and property crime has dropped 43 percent. But because we have a thirst for wild stories, which the media is only too happy to provide, the perception is that crime is rampant. It is not.

And no, you won’t be blown up by ISIS, just as you won’t be highjacked, or in a plane crash. Americans must reel themselves back to reality, remembering that, while there are no absolutes, the odds of anything horrific happening are virtually nil.

But this is easier said than done, since ultra-hype, from shark sightings to three-inch snowstorms, won’t change anytime soon.

If Americans would only put down their smartphones, they’d quickly realize they aren’t going to be murdered, robbed, victimized by a flash mob — or carjacked. About the worst things people will experience are getting rear-ended by a texting Millennial, or being cut off by a soccer mom late to her kid’s game.

Tragically, the inner cities are a different story, but no one wants to face the hard truths about how to resolve the problems there.

Human civilization has been marked by nonstop war and conquest, from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union. But those days are over, replaced by an orderly world where travelers can visit most places with impunity.

For example, Europe has been at peace since 1945. It is now so absent from strife that one can travel freely throughout the continent without even a passport. Yes, that’s the same Europe whose constant wars over many centuries left millions dead.

The names of their conflicts say it all: Thirty Years’ War, and, not to be outdone, the Hundred Years’ War.

China, India, Japan and most of Asia is safe, with market-oriented economies providing an ever-higher standard of living, and ever-decreasing levels of poverty and hunger. And the push for more human rights continues to improve the lives of billions.

Russia, which should be handled with a "trust but verify"  policy, sees businesspeople and tourists travel freely throughout that nation everyday — an impossibility 30 years ago. And, given that they harbor the world’s second-largest nuclear stockpile, it’s better to be on good terms with them than not.

South America is free of war, though corruption is still rampant in parts. That said, most nations are safe; this author visited Columbia recently, and could not have felt more secure.

South Africa, once home to violent apartheid policies, has progressed into a relatively safe tourist mecca. Much of Africa, though, remains war-torn and corrupt, perhaps the only continent becoming increasingly dangerous.

Even in the Mideast, 99 percent visit without incident. There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part, Westerners encounter few problems. Even Israel, a hotbed for war during its entire existence, is, a mecca of safety and modernism. When the Intifada uprisings began last decade, resulting in violence, Israel built a wall to keep terrorists out. Problem solved, peace restored.

There are fewer wars, and fewer people killed, than at any time in history. Violent crime has declined, and terrorism isn’t nearly as prevalent as many perceive. Truthfully, one has a higher chance of being killed in Chicago than in a terror attack. The answer is not to cower in fear, but to live productive lives while remaining vigilant.

But if we swear off traveling "until things gets safer," don’t take our children to concerts and ballgames, and succumb to fear, then, as the comic strip character Pogo once famously said, "we have met the enemy, and he is us."

It’s time to remember that being an American, above all, means that in the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1933, "the only thing we have to fear is . . . fear itself."

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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For those, succumbing to a culture of fear applies to all aspects of life. We’ve all heard the rationalizations. The country is going down the tubes, the world is upside down, crazy people are everywhere. There’s only one problem, it’s simply untrue.
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Friday, 02 Jun 2017 02:59 PM
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