London Bridge is Falling Down

174 Dead, 826 Wounded

That number may seem staggering to you, and of course it is taken out of context. But once you hear what those numbers refer to, you’ll realize why even though they’ve been staring at you in the fact all along, they never really mattered to you.

The most recent numbers, 7 dead and 45+ injured, are probably much more recent in your mind, and more important. They are of course the result of the latest deadly attack in London that we’ve all been hearing about. A group of men with a purpose carried out a violent assault using a truck and a couple of knives, as the available information tells us. These men were willing to die, and die they did, but they accomplished their mission.  Their efforts were broadcast on every station and every type of media, and the world knows full well of their success.

So why are the number of dead and wounded from this incident more poignant and known than our initial number? Why is it that 7 and 45 are larger numbers than 174 and 826 in our minds? It’s because the attack in London, and the preceding attack in Manchester, and prior attacks in Berlin, Nice, and Paris, are all extraordinary events. They are outside of the norm, things we don’t think about, things we dream will never happen. These are events that occur in places where violence and death are something that occurs in stories and history and far off places, but never closer than a world away.

For the curious, our initial numbers are the shooting deaths and injured in Chicago in 2017 as of the end of April. Now granted, we are comparing the results of months of violence to one single incident. Not exactly fair, unless we think about it this way: the number of dead and wounded in Chicago had to consist of several smaller incidents, any one of which may have been as bad as the London attack. Why aren’t we aware of any of these specific incidents on a national or global scale? Why aren’t there concerts and fundraisers and hashtags proclaiming our solidarity with Chicago? Where is #PrayforChicago?

Things that occur often are not as shocking or newsworthy as things that occur on a regular basis. We’ve become accustomed to the everyday violence in places like Chicago. And if we look farther, we’ll find that we’ve become accustomed to ten times the violence than we’ve seen here at home elsewhere in the world.  Syria has been at constant war with itself for more than 6 years. Hell, we’ve been fighting a “Global War on Terror” for more than 16 years now. The civilian death toll is just a byline, and fallen service members are lucky to get a passing mention. We don’t bat an eye at the violence that occurs where we expect it to occur.

This is one of the greatest tragedies of advanced societies. We forget that violence can always occur when men remember it is an effective tool to affect change. We begin to think that we are above it, that we’ve somehow evolved past the use of force to make things happen. And then we become shocked when other, less civilized men use these “forgotten” tactics against us for their own ends.

We have several choices going forward. We can continue on our current path, which seems to involve burying our heads in the sand and accepting attacks like London as we do with violence in Chicago. Conversely, we can send our strongest abroad to bring the fight to the enemy, though as we’ve seen, the enemy is now well within our ranks, and hard to discern from our allies and our countrymen. And of course, there is the preferred course of this blog. We become a society of civilized savages, with all of the enlightened advantages of education, philosophy, and reasoning. But beneath the surface, lying in wait and ready to spring into action, is a citizenry trained, willing, and able to bring swift and overwhelming violence to any who try to influence us through terrorism and fear.

Violence has been a constant throughout human history. We can choose to ignore it, and sooner or later be consumed by it. Or we can choose to embrace it, and make ourselves a harder target than any sane man would choose to threaten. Hopefully we make that choice before attacks like London become just another story ignored by the news.

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