6,000 Americans died yesterday. 40 of them were murdered. 100 of them died in a car accident. 84 of them committed suicide (1,000 others tried to commit suicide and failed). Most of the rest died due to a long struggle with heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc.
There is no mystery in those statistics. It’s just a mass outpouring of simple tragedies of life. There is no narrative we can tell about these six thousand. There is no one culprit on whom we can focus our attention and in so doing attempt to find some kind of closure.
With these six thousand shadows in the background, the horrific bombing in Boston almost seems faint, like another ripple in an ocean of human suffering. I am overwhelmed by the immensity of it. My inclination has been to put the dramatic megaphone of the news on mute, and try to be a helpful hand in whatever small way I can in my little corner of the world.
For me, the attack of 9/11, 2001 did not arouse feelings of anger as it did in many of my fellow Americans. I was simply deeply saddened, the same as after the recent shooting in the Sandy Hook elementary school. Perhaps because of this feeling, the military response in the next 12 years (in my view) was at best flawed and at worst irrational. Many of my friends disagree. I think it boils down to how you see the world, the arc of history, and the best way to defend against and deter future violence.
These days, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have lost any semblance of support among the majority of the American public. But I believe that support can be reignited in a single day of another tragedy. In the rare times when I tune into a video of a MSNBC/Fox/CNN take on a particular subject, I worry that the mechanism of popular media is equipped to stir and ride waves of hysteria. In a perfect world, the media would provide a calm voice of reason: the facts, the context, the several distinct ways to interpret the current events. But in this aspect, we do not live in a perfect world. I fear that any tragedy of the magnitude of 9/11 terrorist attacks will create another state of temporary insanity among the masses. I include myself in that obviously. Anger, sadness, fear can all be exploited intentionally or unintentionally (through institutionalized momentum).
It’s been said by many people in the last 10 years, but our government on many levels is lacking the mechanism to protect us against ourselves when we are in such states of “temporary insanity”. If another big terrorist attack happens on U.S. soil there should be a set of laws that tie the hands of Congress and the president to slow any drastic action and allow a cooling-off period allowing at least a brief chance for rationality and long-term interest of the public to prevail.
The very first question in that article is enough to make my point. “How many lives would you be willing to sacrifice to remove a murderous dictator like Saddam Hussein?” This question was never asked, because it’s a cold calculating question that has to acknowledge as a premise that we are going to have to sacrifice lives.
Instead the discussion was in terms of an arbitrary future threat to civilization from a vague boogie man (i.e. terrorism). There are quantifiable threats associated with terrorism. Numbers. You can estimate probabilities, death tolls, financial impact. And based on that, you can make a decision on whether to go to war. But instead, it seems to me, that we instead make that decision throughout history based on emotions, such as fear, pride, and anger… It’s tragic.
McManus puts forth a romantic version of poker that we all love. But the reality of poker is that it’s gambling. It’s luck. Skill will increase your probability of winning enough to make a profit (maybe even a living) playing the game, but it does not ensure that great ability will lead to tournament hardware. Imagine if quantum mechanics applied on the scale of the golf ball, Tiger Woods would miss the ball completely some percent of the time. Sure he would still do a lot better than the average player, but on any given day, you couldn’t say if he finishes first or last.
It feels great when you win, and horrible when you lose, but somehow the conclusion one ought to draw from the losses are never arrived at…
This is why I avoid the game, but I love to watch others put their well-being (financial and psychological) on the line. The whole thing has the same absurd mix of optimism and pessimism that life has for an introspective person. There’s hope, there’s fear, there’s the delusional rationalization for trying again and again and again.