The Peculiar Nature of Terrorism

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Terrorism and violent political attacks, while relatively rare, strike a peculiar chord on citizens in advanced nations. We often take for granted the safety we have created for ourselves, the bubble-like environment we move about in our daily lives. The number of deaths we experience from terrorists represent a small percentage of total fatalities and have often been compared to getting hit by lightning and other rare occurrences.

We often take for granted the safety we have created for ourselves, the bubble-like environment we move about in our daily lives.

Yet this form of asymmetric warfare successfully changes our way of thinking and actions far more than other dangers. The peculiar nature of terrorism forces us to put ourselves in the place of the victims, mourn their untimely ends and then, drive us and our governments into a frenzy.

Major attacks such as 9/11 are the exception to the rule. Most of the massacres generate a death toll in the hundreds or less. Yet the unexpected nature of their occurrence and the innocence of those affected can force entire cities or even countries into lock down. Think about the Boston Marathon attack. Boston was paralyzed by two people acting alone.

And no matter how the target countries and citizens pledge not to fear afraid, the more you can see it in the frenzy our governments mobilize to prevent. When going to the movie theater doesn’t seem safe or when people take into account the likelihood of a bombing in their daily lives, the peculiar nature of terrorism is working it way deep inside our cultures.

Politicians can often contribute to the frenzy, but they are only reflecting the concerns of everyday citizenry. The reaction of the populace to a terrorist attack often demands security at any price. This results in excessive power given to the police, laws like the Patriot Act and the state of emergency in Paris and many other actions often difficult to reverse.

I’m not sure what cure to recommend for a stricken nation, but it seems decisions like these require the “pause” Republicans are recommending for other issues.