1 in 30,000.
1 in 10,000,000.
1 in 160,000,000.
They arenâ€™t lottery odds, but the chances that your commercial flight will possibly be hijacked.
There are 30,000 passenger flights per day in America, equating to 10 million per year. Factor in no hijacked jets since 9/11, and the number skyrockets to 160 million flights without a terrorist takeover.
Yet many still live in fear, reluctant to fly in the belief that their flight will be â€œthe next oneâ€ targeted. Irrational? Absolutely, but who can blame them? Every day, Americans are bombarded by fear-mongering loudmouths on TV and radio shows, hosts and guests alike, hawking apocalyptic proclamations that the next attack is imminent (a line theyâ€™ve been saying for 16 straight years). â€œItâ€™s not a question of if, but when,â€ weâ€™re constantly warned, so be afraid â€" very afraid.
Such irresponsibility was punctuated this week when Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated, â€œIf you knew what I knew about terrorism, youâ€™d never leave the house.â€ Kelly should be ashamed of himself for needlessly stoking fear. Ironically, his actions actually imperil citizens, since decisions made in fear are almost always wrong.
Some have tuned out such garbage, but unfortunately, many havenâ€™t. For those people, succumbing to a culture of fear doesnâ€™t stop with flying, but applies to every aspect of their lives: traveling, going to the mall, attending a concert, even walking out their front doors. And weâ€™ve all heard the rationalizations: the country is going down the tubes, the world is upside down, crazy people are everywhere.
Thereâ€™s only one problem: itâ€™s just not true.
If fact, we are living in unprecedented peace, wealth, and health, both here and abroad. So despite our collective perception that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, exacerbated by 24/7 media coverage, the reality is that we are living in the safest period in human history.
Sadly, Memorial Day has become synonymous with car, mattress, and TV sales.
But its true meaning must not be lost: honoring those who fought not just for American liberty, but freedom for billions worldwide, with many giving the ultimate sacrifice.
Likewise, gratitude should be afforded to countless family members who kept the home fires burning while their loved ones faced death on battlefields, on and below oceans, and up above in the wild blue yonder. And of course, the American people deserve appreciation, too, for their willingness to fight the good fight, and help others in need, especially when no one else would. It is the stuff of legend. That moral compass made the United States the most benevolent nation in world history.
Those most responsible for our prolonged peace are World War IIâ€™s Greatest Generation, who took on evil leaders halfway around the world and won, saving continents from annihilation, and races from extinction.
Many returned home to boost Americaâ€™s economy into overdrive, providing the revenue necessary for the U.S. to remain a beacon to the world. Others fought a perilous Cold War, meeting the Soviets at every turn. And because America didnâ€™t stomp on its adversaries after beating them, but instead rebuilt their cities â€" and mentalities â€" Europe and Japan were transformed into thriving democracies.
Decades later, with President Reagan at the helm, the forces of freedom defeated the Soviets. Walls fell, families reunited, and armies stood down. With millions freed from tyranny, and relations with Russia thawed, itâ€™s no exaggeration that the Gipperâ€™s victory quite possibly prevented nuclear war, and the extinction of mankind.
Hereâ€™s a look at where the security of America and the world truly stands:
Despite the nonstop stories of criminality on both the news and TV shows, crime in America is at an all-time low. The violent crime rate has plummeted 51 percent since 1991, and property crime has dropped 43 percent. But because we have a thirst for wild stories, which the media is all too happy to provide, and we can access them in real-time, the perception is that crime is rampant. It is not.
And no, you wonâ€™t be blown up by ISIS, either, just as you wonâ€™t be highjacked, or be in a plane crash. Americans must reel themselves back to reality, remembering that, while there are no absolutes in life, the odds of anything truly horrific happening to them are virtually nil. But easier said than done, since ultra-hype, from shark sightings keeping people out of the water, to 3-inch snowstorms causing people to horde weeksâ€™ worth of food, wonâ€™t change anytime soon.
Americans need to put down their smartphones and look around now and then. If they did, theyâ€™d quickly realize that arenâ€™t going to be murdered, robbed, victimized by a flash mob, or carjacked. About the worst things people will experience are getting rear-ended by a texting Millennial (and not receiving an apology) or being cut off by a soccer mom late to her kidâ€™s game.
Tragically, the inner cities are a different story, but no one wants to face the hard truths about how to turn those situations around. But thatâ€™s another column.
Human civilization has been marked by nonstop war and conquest: Alexander the Great; the Romans; Genghis Khan; barbarian hordes, and yes, Hitler and the Soviet Union. But those days are over, replaced by an orderly world where travelers can visit most places with impunity.
Europe has been at peace since 1945, and is now so absent from strife that one can travel freely from one end of the continent to the other without even a passport. Yes, thatâ€™s the same Europe whose constant wars over thousands of years left millions dead. Hell, the names of their conflicts say it all: Thirty Yearsâ€™ War, and, not to be outdone, the Hundred Yearsâ€™ War.
China, India, Japan and most of Asia is safe, with robust, market-oriented economies providing an ever-higher standard of living, and ever-decreasing levels of poverty and hunger. And while human rights are still evolving, free markets and the push for basic international standards continue to improve the lives of billions.
Russia, which should still be handled with a â€œtrust but verifyâ€ policy, sees businesspeople and tourists travel safely throughout that nation everyday â€" an impossibility a mere 30 years ago. And, given that they harbor the worldâ€™s second-largest nuclear stockpile, itâ€™s certainly better to be on good terms with them than not.
South America is free of war, though corruption and the drug trade is unfortunately still rampant in parts. That said, most nations are safe; this author visited Colombia recently, and could not have felt more secure and welcome.
South Africa, once home to violent apartheid policies, has progressed into a relatively safe tourist mecca. Unfortunately, though, much of Africa, remains war-torn and corrupt, perhaps the only continent that is becoming more dangerous.
Even in the Middle East, where itâ€™s admittedly dicier, 99 percent of visitors enjoy their stay without incident. There are the obvious exceptions, of course, but for the most part, Westerners encounter few problems. Even Israel, hotbed for war its entire existence, is, overall, a mecca of safety and modernism, because the Israelis donâ€™t allow problems to fester. When the Intifada uprisings started last decade, resulting in violence, Israel built a wall to keep them out. Problem solved, and peace ensued.
There are fewer wars than at any time in history, and where they do exist, fewer people are killed and injured. Violent crime rates have declined both at home and abroad, and terrorism, while it will always make headlines, is not nearly as prevalent as many perceive. Truthfully, one has an infinitely higher chance of being killed in Chicago than in a terror attack. The answer is not to let them win by cowering in fear, but to live productive lives while remaining vigilant â€" exactly what those who fought for our freedoms would have wanted.
But if we swear off traveling â€œuntil things gets safer,â€ donâ€™t take our children to concerts and ballgames, and succumb to fear, then, as Pogo said, â€œwe have met the enemy, and he is us.â€
Itâ€™s time to remember who we are â€" that being an American, above all, means that â€œthe only thing we have to fear is â€¦ fear itself.â€
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]