ISIS attacks around the globe have caused widespread panic and fear in many places, prompting extra security and vigilance on the part of governments. However, when traveling, this security apparatus can seem even scarier, for it belies a risk of death or injury by terrorists. When you walk into an airport and see K9 units and army guards and extra TSA agents, part of you doesn’t feel any safer. Why is that? Why do we fear death by terrorism to such great lengths that we are afraid when we see those who are meant to protect us from such events?
There is an irrational sense of fear associated with terrorism, even though there is a higher chance of being struck by lightning this year than being killed by a terrorist organization. If this is the case, then why do we fear hopping on a plane more than going outside?
Some part of this thinking may be because we have been taught that getting hit by lightning is rarely likely, whereas the news cycle is dominated by terrorist attacks and stories of survivors. Terrorism seems a lot less isolated to us, partly because terror attacks tend to target more than one person. This may also explain the slow US response to ISIS, as it only beheaded one or two people at a time. Yet when ISIS began to mature and develop even deadlier methods of killing, more people would die at once, and the US and world response hastened and intensified.
Another factor behind our fear of the modern day sense of terrorism may be a religious and racist one. For about as long as there has been an Islamic state, it has been hated by Christians. From the Arabians to the Moors to the Ottomans, Islamic states were villainized by the Christian west. Muslims were portrayed as barbarians and murderous cannibals who love to kill Christians. So the idea of Muslim terrorists today, with long beards and dark skin, wearing robes and carrying a hatred for “white Christians” seems unreasonably scary.
Whatever the reason for it may be, people today fear a terrorist attack and that may factor into whether or not they travel. But it shouldn’t. To be entirely clear here, getting injured or killed in a terrorist attack, especially while traveling, is highly unlikely. So unlikely in fact, that you would have to travel 8,000,000 times to have a 100% chance of dying at least once in all of your travels. The chances of being a victim of a terrorist attack is .0000125%. The chances of being president are about the same, about 1 in 10,000,000.
Statistically, you would be fine traveling, so you should still travel. However, it is not always as simple as that. There is still a fear of getting on an airplane or walking around a city with a large police presence, because the danger feels a lot more potent. So why should you, knowing that you will survive a trip, travel if you will just be afraid during all points of the journey?
The short answer is the fear. The longer answer is that terrorism is defined as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal”, meaning if the people are frightened by terrorist attacks, then the terrorists will achieve their goals. This is part of the problem playing out across countries in Europe – should they stick to their ideals as democratically elected republics who welcome everybody and allow the people liberty, or should they protect the people in exchange for their liberty?
To combat the idea of terrorism, we as a people need to stand up to the fear and do things that the fear of terrorism is compelling us not to. Now, I am not stating that traveling will destroy ISIS, or that going to Paris will rid the world of fanatical terrorists everywhere, but it surely does weaken the impact of their actions. If everybody goes about their daily lives instead of panicking and taking extreme actions to ensure their immediate safety, then ISIS loses. They lose because they cannot make us fear them because we are undaunted. We do not fear their tactics of terror and hatred. We will not give into their fanaticism and propaganda. There is no way to make us cower in our homes and renounce our liberty.
Terrorism is a reason to travel, not a reason not to travel. If we do not cave into our own unreasonable fear of being a victim of a terror attack, if we do not let ourselves exchange our liberty, and our posterity’s too, we will be in a world that is far greater than the one we are in now. Terrorism aims to make us change our day-to-day lives, to change how we interact with other people, and if travel is a part of our routine lives (perhaps not our daily lives) then if we give up travel, are we not also giving up to the terrorists?