Living with Risk is the Cost of Freedom
Leonard Pitts Jr.
We always seem surprised.
Even after all those episodes and dozens more, we always seem surprised, always persist in believing the unbelievable: terrorism happens in other places, it doesn't happen here.
No, it's never said in those words. Rather it is something said "between" the words, something audible in the indignant tone of the news anchor, something seen in the shocked eyes of the bystander, something felt in the chambers of one's own heart where one is surprised -- and surprised to be.
Because terrorism "doesn't happen here." And when it does, it feels as if the universe is playing with marked cards and loaded dice. It feels as if you've been cheated somehow by this reminder that we are, indeed, the world -- and the world is a dangerous place.
But American innocence is a renewable resource. So the events of last week, the close call wherein a would-be terrorist left a crude car bomb in
Meantime, we shake our heads at the closeness of the call, lionize the vigilant street vendors and the fast-acting cop who averted disaster, and begin trying to figure out how the system failed us. That it did, we have no doubt. That someone blew it is an article of faith. Already, there are questions about how suspect
Obviously, we must do everything practical and possible to thwart terrorists and protect lives. But the bitter fact is that, though we succeed a hundred times, eventually we will fail. This is the thing no one says as they go about "fixing" what went wrong. The idea seems to be that if we can just perfect the system we can guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen again.
This was the subtext of all those people lauding
Which is that senseless violence is not an aberration of life but a part of it. So no matter how you tweak the system, we will always be vulnerable. Indeed, more so because we are free. And no system consistent with that freedom could have stopped a fanatic from driving a bomb into
Note that even the questions being raised now concern what happened "after" Shahzad allegedly placed his bomb.
There's a saying: I'd rather be lucky than good. Last week, we were both. But at some point, we will be neither.
So what can you do? The answer is that you do the best you can, take what precautions you can, and then you get on with it, learn to live with the risk freedom entails. You accept that risk because freedom is worth it.
And because living in fear is a contradiction in terms.
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Living with Risk is the Cost of Freedom | United States
(c) 2010 Leonard Pitts Jr.