Fear Letting Fear Strip Freedom
Protesting everything, from the legitimate to the ridiculous, seems to be America’s newest pastime, replete with vitriol from all sides. Yet in a strange way, the Las Vegas massacre may yet unite us. We need to fight those who commit such atrocities. But how?
One way is by not living in fear. By not letting them win. And by not allowing them to change the very essence of who we are, and how we live our lives.
We need to go to — rather than avoid —Las Vegas. We need to walk The Strip, stay at the Mandalay Bay hotel, attend outdoor concerts, and unabashedly embrace other human beings in large crowds. It doesn’t mean we won’t be on edge, and yes, even afraid, but to run from these things is capitulating to the bad guys and succumbing to victimhood.
That’s not who we are.
Whether it’s the 64-year old whack-job from 80 miles away from Las Vegas whose name will not be dignified here, to lone wolf terrorists, to ISIS regulars, we must not give them what they want — we cannot cower.
We need to protest their evil actions, defiantly and unified, while not ceding civil liberties which would further restrict our freedoms. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have discussions — even very passionate arguments — about everything from gun control to mental health to security checks, because they are necessary.
But in the same way that civilized humanity loses if we stop traveling to London, Paris, and Manchester, we cannot become afraid to walk out our doors right here in America. We must never stop living valiantly, and never cease teaching our children that evil will not overcome — if for no other reason than to honor those who perish so tragically at the hands of madmen.
Sure, writing these things is easier said than done. But if we want to live rather than just exist, what choice do we have?
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, this author took significant flak for taking his young daughter on a transatlantic flight the day the airports reopened. “It’s one thing if you want to kill yourself,” some screamed, “but how can you so callously jeopardize your child’s life by flying now?”
My response was simple: I asked if they could:
- Guarantee that the plane would not crash because of mechanical failure
- Assure me with absolute certainty that I would not be in any kind of fatal incident here at home
- And, tell me precisely when it would be “safe”to fly again with zero possibility of a terrorist attack
Fact was, the months after 9/11 were by far the safest time to fly. That doesn’t mean that I, along with every other passenger, wasn’t white-knuckled. It was a scary time, but the answer was to forge ahead.
In response to the attacks, President George W. Bush made the bold proclamation that we should continue flying, traveling, going to ballgames, and living to the fullest extent, lest al-Qaida win the day. It took time, but Americans rallied instead of retreated. We were unified (at least for a while), and we vowed never to let such evildoers take what they desire most — the American soul.
If we are to be true to ourselves, and our children, the answer lies in the words of the legendary John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death — but saddling up anyway.”
There are many angles to the Las Vegas attack which must be explored. Here are some aspects to consider:
1. Innocent human life is sacred, so it makes no difference how people are ripped from our arms and murdered. Why then are we not employing the full-court press to stop the staggeringly large number of killings savaging our inner cities? In September of this year alone, Chicago saw 57 murdered and another 273 shot and wounded (compared to at least 59 dead and 527 injured in Las Vegas). Neither tragedy trumps the other, but the critical difference is that Chicago, and other cities, experience those numbers every month. And despite what some may believe, it’s not just drug dealers and criminals shooting each other but young children, the elderly, and innocent parents often being gunned down.
It’s finally time to shelve partisanship, leave the derisive labels at home, and create a real-world, concrete plan to deal with the genocide occurring every day on America’s streets.
2. Inner cities aside, we must remember that we are living in the safest time in human history. Yes, the magnitude of individual attacks is growing, as is our ability to see developments unfold 24/7. But it is imperative to remember (and obviously this is not to slight the victims and their families) that the odds of experiencing this type of attack are statistically nonexistent.
Over 1 billion people have enjoyed The Strip in Las Vegas without incident. The next billion will undoubtedly do so as well; the odds for another massacre are virtually nil.
We cannot allow ourselves to become paralyzed by isolated incidents because we mistakenly believe they are commonplace. They are not. Vigilance, not paranoia, is the answer.
3. Gun control will be front and center. This time, though, because an automatic weapon was used, we are in new territory. But cooler heads must prevail, because what won’t be helpful is a “tactical” win by gun control advocates (more gun bans) at the expense of a “strategic” victory, such as discovering why these events are occurring.
Should we look at the laws governing the highly-regulated ownership of automatic weapon, and conversion kits (where regular weapons can be transformed into machine guns)? Absolutely. But while some think such measures will be the panacea, the reality is just the opposite.
4. Instead, we should be looking at consequences of when a society overly coddles people, young and old alike, instilling in them a massive sense of entitlement; an environment in which many believe they are owed things that they most certainly are not.
Combine that with the dangerously naive movement to eliminate risk and sanitize all potential adversities, and the result is generations of people unable to function, let alone cope with life when things go awry.
The vast majority of these people (like the Las Vegas shooter) are “merely” dysfunctional. But for some, any type of rejection leads to violence against anyone and anything, snapping when offended or something doesn’t go their way. Someone doesn’t like them, they get fired, a teacher or boss disciplines them, they chronically lose money at casinos — and then they go on a rampage.
Our most important job is to figure out how to reverse the mindset that going out in a blaze of glory, killing as many as possible, as being the best method for dealing with problems.
If we fail, ISIS will be the least of our problems. That’s the scariest thought of all.