Spoiler alert – you’re going to die. I can’t tell you when or how, but it’s the one thing in life that’s guaranteed. And with news stations constantly reporting on terrorism and threats abroad, it’s easy to get scared. After all, headlines these days read like something out of a creature feature (Stephen King pales in comparison to the nightly news!) But the truth is, you’re far more likely to be killed by a hamburger than a terrorist attack. Here’s a little perspective to keep in mind the next time you’re told you’d be safer at home.
You’re More Likely to Die From…
Despite what the news would have you believe, you have a better chance of being killed by any number of things in your everyday life than by terrorism. Since 9/11, foreign born terrorists account for an average of 1 American death per year. Compare that to 610,000 deaths per year from heart disease (that’s 1 in every 4 deaths!) So while you’re chowing down on a hamburger and discussing how you would never travel abroad because it’s so unsafe, watch your back. Because if the cholesterol from that burger doesn’t kill you, then you still have a 1 in 3,409 chance that you’ll choke to death on it (which is over 13x more likely than dying at the hands of a terrorist.)
Even something as simple as walking is more dangerous than a foreign born terrorist. Seriously. That kinda makes sense if you’re a complete and utter klutz like me. However, if you’re just the average American, you have a 1 in 672 chance of dying from a Sunday stroll. Crunching the numbers, that means you’re 68 times more likely to die from simply walking through your day than from terrorism. So why don’t we hear that perspective more often?
News is a Business
It comes as no surprise that newspapers and news stations aren’t charity cases. They’re in it to increase viewership and sell ad space. And nothing grasps the public’s attention like shock and fear. After all, despite the high numbers associated with the causes of death I mentioned above, reporting on them wouldn’t exactly have papers flying off the shelves. “Tonight on News 10 – two more men die while mowing their lawns on a hot day. And later – a woman perishes from falling off her deck.” While tragic, they aren’t exactly stories people tune in for. But even the whisper of the word “terrorism” has everyone’s interest piqued. Not only is it graphic and tragic, but it also reaffirms the belief that only the familiar is safe. You can wrap yourself up in those preconceived notions and sleep soundly thinking you literally dodged a bullet. But are those notions correct?
America Isn’t a Safe Haven
You may be shocked to hear that there are travel alerts for people wanting to visit the United States from other countries. What? Yes, you read that right. America is oftentimes viewed as a risky travel destination to others. Case in point, while in Iceland we were frequently asked where we were visiting from. When we said Colorado, one man responded with “Oh yea, you have the pot (gesturing to smoking a joint) and the (shooting noises) gunmen.” Yup, that’s us – the land of pot and shootings.
And that’s not the first time I’ve heard someone from abroad speak of the United States this way. When our Cuban guide came to stay with us in Colorado, his mother asked him not to come because she was so terrified of the brutality here. But why would anyone be afraid of a state known for it’s tranquil purple mountains majesty? It’s hard to tell. Maybe it was the theater full of moviegoers that were shot by a lunatic on opening night of the new Batman. Perhaps she heard about the gunman that was randomly picking people off as they drove down the Colorado highways. Or maybe it was the Columbine High School shooting that killed 12 and injured another 21. Who knows. But one thing’s for sure – the land of the free certainly isn’t without it’s fair share of violence.
So the next time someone tells you how scary it is to travel these days, consider the facts. I’m not saying it isn’t without it’s risks, and you should always exercise caution. But don’t be so paralyzed with apprehension that you refuse to live your dreams. Because the second you start limiting your life for the sake of avoiding death, you’ve already got one foot in the grave.
Source: Business Insider, How Likely Are Foreign Terrorists to Kill Americans? The Odds May Surprise You, by Dave Mosher and Skye Gould