One of our regular lurkers on this blog sent me an email this afternoon and wrote “I sense your frustration with the attack in Boston but, practically speaking, and constructively speaking, what do you suggest we do?”
I kind of thought we had plowed this ground before, but maybe its time to talk about it again.
Couple of things: first, we need to retain a sense of perspective. Life in the United States is unbelievably and enviably safe. More people were killed or injured in car accidents in the last 24 hours than have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past 12 years. In fact, in the last 24 hours, three people in this country died somewhere choking on fruit.
Second, we need some psychological understanding of what terrorism is, what terrorists want, and how our response to attacks feeds more attacks. I’m not saying that we need to ignore these kinds of events, but terrorists rejoice when they can dictate the president’s schedule, but it does effect the political climate.
And we need to be prepared. In 2001, I noted that we should strive to have 50,000,000 non-compensated first responders trained to deal with terrorists situations, so that there could be at least three certified trained volunteer first responders in every school, work place or public space at any given moment. I noted that the classes could be taught in high schools, community colleges or adult ed. My understanding is that 12 years later, approximately 25,000 Americans have taken it upon themselves to take classes and course work for this purpose. I was last a compensated first-responder in 1986, but I’ve tried to keep my skills up to date. I was at a course last year in which, over the course of three hours, we were brought up to date on the latest type of IEDs to watch for, including pressure cooker bombs, and there were six of us in the lecture hall. My class in securing a terrorist act casualty site? 10 people. The class I went to on terrorist triage and first responder coordination? Twelve non compensated first responders. And those of us who do go are often the butt of jokes about survivalism and tin foil on the roof. Well, like anything else, it takes knowledge and practice to know how to deal with terrorism, so why does our belief in education fail on something so important.
Its been 12 years since 9/11. Dropping drones on terrorists and two disastrous wars and two disastrous presidents later, we spend our Homeland Security budget on wasted gadgets, on trinkets that make no difference, on road signs for evacuation. We don’t spend our money educating our people, which is our greatest resource. Clearly, people want to help. But they need to know how to help. In a country without compulsory military service, we simply have no established mechanism for conveying information, and learning how to apply it. In short, we’ve done nothing to make our society safer, other than learn to take off our shoes when going through airport security.Terrorism is rare. But it isn’t going away.
Isn’t it worthwhile for us to at least educate ourselves, so that when the unexpected (but not inconceivable happens) we know what to do?