The horrific attacks in Las Vegas underscored a feeling for me of being truly wary of large groups of people and being at risk of a terrorist attack.
The police call these events “soft targets:” places where people gather and are unprotected and particularly vulnerable.
I shop, I go to malls and my husband and I travel and we attend events. In fact a couple of years ago I questioned whether I would go to any San Francisco Super Bowl events as the San Francisco Chronicle had published several stories about the security concerns at the game.
I didn’t have tickets to the game but there were a lot of festivities around to participate in that were “game” featured. It was a dilemma as to how comfortable I would be in the middle of Super Bowl activities with thousands of people milling about.
My friends at our local Homeland Security offices said they began working on security a year before the game.
I don’t like to give up my life and my routines to worrying about being in the middle of a home-grown terrorist attack. Yet, when story after story appears about just folk being murdered for attending church or a music concert, it begins to wear at me.
Terrorism is working when it inspires profound fear. However, the Washington Post wrote that I’m more likely to be injured or die running, falling furniture or driving than from being attacked by a terrorist. It gave a very sobering comparison that while the Paris attacks killed 130 people, about three times that number of French citizens died on that same day from cancer.
It sort of helped, but not completely.
I wrote a book review for the New York Journal of Books a couple of years ago about the Boston Marathon Bombings, Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, The FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing by Michele McPhee. In it she tells the story of Tsarnaev brothers and their life in the United States.
I wrote: “After their parents fled Russia and settled in Cambridge, MA, the boys attended the Rindge and Latin high school, considered one of the best in the country. Indeed, Dzhokhar was enrolled in Introduction to Ethics at UMass Dartmouth. The family was granted political asylum, and Dzhokhar became an American citizen. However, Tamerlan never quite made citizenship, although it was something he desperately wanted.
“Instead, both became U.S. counterterrorism’s biggest nightmare: Homegrown terrorists.”
Terror next door
When we spend time worrying about who is coming across the border, what are we doing to deal with the disaffected kid next door?
The statistic that floats around in my head is a study that since 9/11, homegrown terrorists have killed more than five times as many Americans as Islamist have.
As well, again since 9/11, on average, approximately six terrorist plots in one year are carried out by American Muslims that resulted in 50 fatalities, according to the New York Times. Yet, here at home, the number of attacks by right-wing extremists are about 30 a year, which totals 337, between 2001 and 2012, resulting in 254 fatalities, according to the Combating Terrorism Center, a privately funded think tank at West Point.
I don’t want to live in fear, yet when I see what happens when ordinary citizens gather together, I begin looking around me in the train station, subway or airport to see who may have on bulky clothes in the summer or just a bit too twitchy and sweaty.
And attacks are not always guns or bombs. Lately, we have seen people use their cars as the weapon, such as in the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, where James Alex Fields Jr. used his Dodge Challenger to mow down a group of protesters. Another event that marks the growing violence of America’s far-right wing.
It’s just sad.
It’s sad that so many people are angry and feel disenfranchised by our society.
It’s sad that we don’t want to know who are neighbors are and how we are more alike than not.
I’d like to think this will change when we all get really tired of being afraid.