Barely a drop in the bucket compared to auto accident deaths, even in 1941. More people died in car accidents in Illinois that year than were killed at Pearl Harbor. Murders in America were much higher, too. And Cancer deaths. Even back then, America could be a pretty tough place.
Yet somehow, most Americans felt that the attack and the resulting casualties were about more than just the numbers. I say this because, in the wake of the recent string of terrorist attacks, I’ve already heard – as if on cue – a growing ‘look at the numbers’ approach to the topic.
I get that there are probably more people killed by antelopes than by terrorists. Or something of the sort. I understand that. But it never kept us from reducing terrorism to just numbers in the past. It isn’t as if we looked at Oklahoma City and said ‘Eh, think how many died from cancer last year.’ Just the opposite.
I seem to recall that England didn’t approach the IRA that way either. Heck, we don’t do it today. Whether mass shootings, or violence against abortion clinics, or a cop shooting an unarmed black man that leads to protests, riots and thousands of hours of coverage, debate, discussion, outrage, we seem to know it’s not just about the numbers.
Except with these terrorist attacks. For some reason, time and again, we’re reminded of the numbers when this particular brand of terrorist attack happens. Since 9/11 on, it’s been the numbers. More people die in auto accidents in a month than died on 9/11. More are killed in a month by guns than died on 9/11. After almost every terrorist attack recently – London, Paris, San Bernardino, Nice – I see this brought up.
I wonder why that is. There must be a reason. It isn’t as if we believe all deaths are just about numbers. Heck, hate crime legislation demonstrates that if nothing else does. Why can we spend so much time and call for urgent responses after some tragedies, often well out of proportion of the numbers, and yet like clockwork you can predict that Muslim extremist terrorist attacks will inevitably be followed by talk of numbers, proportion, perspective, and basic arithmetic?
I don’t know the answer, I’m curious. So are Michael Dougherty and Jonah Goldberg. Apparently I’m not the only one thinking on it. Though I’m not so much pointing it out as I’m curios why it’s only this brand of terrorism that elicits this response.