Terrorism, WMD and things that go bump in the night

Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction are two terms first burned into our brains during the Bush (43) administration, mostly as a result of the attacks of 9/11. No one can argue with the threat or consequences of terrorism in our cities. No one can argue with the potency of fear as a great uniter and a weapon in its own right.

9/11 made real an otherwise ethereal concept. It also made way for a pummeling incantation of talking points and the continual conjuring of horrifying imagery. Terrorism was no longer the tool of an enemy, it was the enemy. We focused on it like we once focused on human achievement, like Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the Moon’s surface.

Sharing a common enemy made the American people willing accomplices to all that our government could do to push against the very democracy they claimed to be defending. Anything other than full compliance and acceptance was seen as “anti-American” and “un-Patriotic”.

To reinforce our fear and re-direct our angst, Dick Cheney drew our attention to something we might not have thought of on our own; weapons of mass destruction. We define them very loosely, as we do insider trading and dangle them as the ultimate threat.

Inductively, we’ve labeled the Tsarnaev brothers as terrorists, which seems only fitting. Whether links to outside forces are established or history lumps them in with domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, their goal was clear. The younger, surviving brother has been charged with, among other things use of weapons of mass destruction. Chilling terminology that seems to satisfy a political conflict more than it address any real maladies eating away at our cities.

My friend, Grant made me aware this week that all the attention focused on the bombings in Boston act as a distraction from other serious and ongoing threats. He was right, as was Steven Rosenfeld, who published an article this week in Alternet entitled, “America’s Focus on Terrorism Blinds Us To Everyday Violence and Suffering”. ¬†Grant’s point and Rosenfeld’s point is that there are greater threats to the integrity and the fabric of our society than random acts of violence. Certainly these acts are manifestations of great evil, but even greater evil exists on the streets of our cities every single day.

For example, about 40,000 motorists are killed each year in traffic accidents, many times more are injured. With increased car safety, that number is expected to be down to about 32,000 by 2015, but it’s also projected that by 2015 gun-related fatalies will also be in the 32,000 range. Right here it’s worth remembering that, no matter how tragic, there were still only three fatalities in Boston. That in no way makes light of those deaths or the many more who were injured or otherwise affected.

Crime, poverty and armed territorial disputes dominate and ravage America’s urban culture. If our legislature feels that background checks for gun buyers is too much of an intrusion on their constitutional rights, perhaps they could be persuaded to feel the same way about some of our archaic drug laws that do nothing but clog our courts, our prisons and foment mayhem on our streets. There’s only so much terrorism coverage on CNN to distract us. At some point we may notice that something else is going on.

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