I was working on my column with the TV on when I heard the reports about the bridge in Minneapolis collapsing. It sounded pretty bad, so I stopped what I was doing, started watching and became disgusted.
What I found bothersome, aside from the obnoxious media feeding frenzy, was something that was stated in the early hours of the reportage. What they kept saying--all the anchors on all the stations, incessantly, repeatedly, until they were absolutely certain that they had gotten the message across--was that terrorism was probably not the cause of the collapse.
Which is fine, I suppose, if you don't mind the media reporting on things that haven't happened. But what I found most troubling was the way they kept hammering it home, and how there was a tone of relief in their voices as if to say, 'Whew! Thank god--not a terrorist attack.'
I don't understand what difference it makes. What does it matter that it wasn't terrorists who felled that bridge? Does it mean that you and I are safer in this world? Does it make the victims any less dead?
I'm not saying they shouldn't report what caused the calamity. Of course they should. But does it make it any better to know that the bridge collapsed from natural causes, such as corrosion? Is dying from terrorism somehow worse than dying from natural causes? Terrorism is natural causes. It's all natural causes. All the crap that can kill us is part of the natural order of things, and it's just illogical to be more afraid of terrorism than earthquakes, or tsunamis, or car accidents, or disease, hurricanes, twisters or even a goddamned anvil falling out of the sky and crushing your skull.
Terrorism is just one in a long list of things that might kill us and is actually pretty low on the likelihood list. Statistically speaking, it falls somewhere below an avalanche killing you and above an anvil landing on your skull.
I don't know if this comes as good or bad news for you, but I find it utterly liberating to know that I'm more likely to get crushed by a wall of snow than snuffed by a terrorist. I don't even ski! I find it liberating to not fear terrorism. And since this is his main weapon against me, I find it liberating to know that by controlling my fear, my enemy is diminished.
Not that I don't ever experience fear. It's just that, well, been there, done that, you know? Many of you are too young to remember the air-raid drills, the bomb-shelter commercials and the straight-up terror we felt during the Cold War. I only caught the end of it, but I was pretty scared there for a while. In fact, that's how I know that living life in a state of dread is just a colossal waste of time. Because, in the end, nobody I knew ever got killed by a communist. It was the drugs, and the guns, and the cancers that picked off my people one by one.
It's not our fault that we are Darwinianly designed to act like frightened rodents in the face of danger. But to not overcome it leaves us vulnerable to the small group of douchebags who know how to wield our fear against us. People like George Bush and Osama bin Laden have at least this much in common: They are both experts in Pavlovian conditioning. And we are all their dogs, conditioned to tremble at the mere mention of terrorism, which is why, when the bridge collapsed, all the anchormen and women on the TV screen--themselves shivering in their swivels--kept repeating 'Not a terrorist, not a terrorist!' until we exhaled in relief.
But there's no reason to feel relief that it was not a terrorist attack that destroyed that bridge. If anything, if you really think it through, it would've been better if it were. Terrorist attacks don't grow on trees. They require time, money and luck. If the bridge collapse was a terrorist act, then it would be that much longer before another attempt against us could be made. But if it wasn't terrorism, well, those people would still be dead an al Qaeda attack would still be looming.
So, no, knowing the disaster was caused by wear and tear, or incompetence, or greed won't make me feel any safer the next time I drive under a bridge. To me, they're all the same. All the things that can kill me are just anvils falling out of the sky. Sure, the anvils come in different colors, but color doesn't matter much when an anvil crashes through your skull. You're never gonna hear a brain surgeon say, 'Nothing to worry about folks. He only got hit by a yellow anvil.'
About a year ago, a small prop plane crashed into an apartment building on East 72nd Street in Manhattan. I remember how all the broadcasters were squawking, 'Is it al Qaeda?' I remember thinking how freaking obvious it was that it wasn't. Their targets are symbolic. They're not going to waste their efforts crashing a two-seat prop plane into a no-name apartment building. But the mere fact that it was an airplane and that it hit a building freaked people out. And isn't that exactly what the point of terrorism is? To keep us in a permanent state of freaked-out no matter how illogical.
They want us to think that every bridge that collapses, every truck that backfires and every twig that snaps behind you when you're walking alone at night is somehow al Qaeda lurking nearby. And it just burns me up knowing these hoofsuckers are watching and laughing as our news broadcasters cry out, 'Not a terrorist! Not a terrorist!' every time a cat gets stuck in a tree. It burns me up to think of them high-fiving each other over the fact that it has been nearly six years since 9/11 and we still need to leave the nightlight on, still need to be coddled by our mommies in the media. It burns me up knowing their sinister plan was a success. Their tactic was true. The terrorists have won.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org., and visit the newly remodeled www.edwindecker.com.