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Editorial: Terrorized

Central Park and Times Square, New York CIty
Central Park and Times Square, New York CIty

Days afterwards, it’s almost completely vanished from the news, just another footnote of the dangers of life in America.

Early on, the fears were all about a terror attack: a driver on the sidewalk in New York City in iconic Times Square, mowing down passersby without even slowing down.

By the time his maroon Honda Accord hit a bollard and stopped, the driver had killed an 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Michigan, and injured 22 more people, including her 13-year-old sister.

News agencies fired out Tweets; reporters, photographers and camera operators were mobilized. A sunny spring day in Times Square seemed like a perfect opportunity to sow fear through terror.

The driver was 26-year-old Richard Rojas, a Navy veteran from the Bronx with a history of drunk driving, violence and mental issues. Police say it appeared the man was under the influence of PCP.

Drug abuse? Apparently.

Inadequate treatment for mental health issues? Apparently, that as well. It raises plenty of questions.

But not about terrorism.

At a nearby news conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was reassuring the public that, “Based on information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

That’s fine.

But the same number of people were injured, the same number killed, the same number of lives affected, regardless of whether it was terror or not.

No one was talking about treatment or prevention, though — just, thank goodness, not a terror attack.

It’s just like the way we don’t talk about a whole bunch of things far more dangerous to society than the current threat of terrorism.

By May 19, the U.S.-based Gun Violence Archive had a scary set of numbers posted online: so far this year in the United States, there have been 23,161 gun violence incidents, including 5,656 deaths, 11,116 injuries, 244 children killed or injured, and — wait for it — 128 mass shootings.

They’re now so common now that, chances are, unless they were close to home for you, few people could name even five of those mass shootings. To keep it in perspective, there had only been 139 days in 2017 at that point, so, almost a mass shooting a day.

The truth of it is, Canadians are statistically far more likely to die as a result of a drunk-driving accident as they are to have died from terrorism.

Monday night, near press time, there was news of what might have been a terrorist attack at a concert in Manchester, England, with reports of fatalities. This is not meant to minimize the fact that there are terrorist attacks, or that terrorism exists.

But we have become a world focused on one kind of harm, while many others fall quickly from our radar. And they all as damaging to lives and families.

 

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