Friday, January 16, 2009

Uh, No, Actually, It Wasn't,

Yesterday afternoon I flipped on the TV to see if there were any details about the plane that landed in the Hudson.
Blog-post interruption: Every time I fly, when the flight attendant says, "in the unlikely event of a water landing ..." I think to myself, "water landing? Wouldn't that be a crash?" Now I know better.
I don't actually know what station I was watching, but as soon as I turned to a news station there were the remarkable pictures of the plane floating in the river. The talking head said, "your first thought when you hear the news is: was it terrorism?"
Uh, no, actually it wasn't.
Planes crash. Machines break. Birds fly into engines. All of these things are much more common and overwhelmingly more likely than terrorism. Only because we have been conditioned, almost commanded, to live in fear for the past seven years could a thoughtless talking head, reflecting an all-too-unreflective culture, say such a thing.
On the scale of things we need to fear as individuals, terrorism falls somewhere way down the line from slipping in the tub and cracking your head open. Yet our individual lives are disrupted in dozens of small and not so small ways in deference to those who want us to fear terrorism.
On the scale of things we need to fear as a society, terrorism still does not top the list. A lot more of us have died prematurely due to our broken health care system than due to terrorism.
Oh, to be sure, unless you've been living in a cave for the past decade you know that there are people living in caves out there who want to do us harm. They are real, and they are dangerous.
But sitting at the laptop and eating bonbons is far more of a threat to my health and safety than the terrorists.
Yes, it's the bonbons. They are out to get us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No Ordinary Failure

From Jacob Weisberg, in Newsweek, comes the quote of the day on the Bush legacy: "Once the country is rid of Bush, perhaps we can start developing a more nuanced understanding of how his presidency went astray. His was no ordinary failure, and he leaves not just an unholy mess but also some genuine mysteries."
No ordinary failure -- sounds like a book title, but I don't anticipate it as anyone's autobiography.
The past eight years have reminded me many times of why the apocryphal Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times," is considered a curse. These have been extraordinary times, and perhaps no one leading through these years would have been even an ordinary success.
That is as charitable a thought as I can muster just now.