Wednesday--October 23
, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 406
Taking A Terrorism Walk
With My Grandson

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, October 23 -- Today I take my grandson into the world of snipers, Terrorists and madmen.    We're going for a walk along Times Square.
        I have a choice of dressing in him a warm jacket, or a flack jacket. 
        I can also choose to teach him how to duck and run when the bullets start to fly, and how to use my cell phone if I take a bullet for him.

       Going to Toys 'R Us or FAO Schwarz could be a life-threatening journey.  Who knows if the sniper from Washington D.C. hasn't driven or even bussed or flown to New York City?
        So what do I do?
        Do I tell the six-year-old who is madly in love with the Rescue Heroes that they are only play, imagination toys and can't help him?   Or do I pretend he's safe in the cocoon of his imaginative friends--Jake Justice and Billy Blazes
        It seems a lot of people are concerned that American families are overreacting to the sniper attacks.  The deluge of media hype has made fear of the sniper greater than fear of the terrorists.  
        Newsweek just ran a poll that found 47 percent of Americans very or somewhat concerned a member of their family being a victim of sniper violence while 43 percent opted for fear of a Terrorist attack.  Women's fears were even higher, 56 percent, as were minorities, 58 percent.

        The Economist Magazine, noted for its number-crunching articles, took a swipe at America's "logic of irrational fear."  It reduced the risk of being shot by the sniper in the five counties where the killing has occurred as one in 344,000, based on a population area around Washington D.C. of 3.1 million.   The author went so far as to annualize the random sniper attacks, creating a theoretical murder rate of 7.5 per 100,000 people.  In 2000, the murder rate without a sniper was 3.4 per 100,000.

Searching for clues in sniper killings

 However, the majority of murders in the five counties encompassing the Economist's statistics had a low murder ratio.   The highest was Prince George County, and the remaining four averaged 1.4 per 100,000.
        That makes the odds of being killed by the Terrorist Sniper nearly six times higher in counties outside Prince George, where most of the shootings have occurred.
        But the big point the Economist was making revolved around "irrational, illogical statistical fear."   From a numbers viewpoint, the amount of fear versus the risk was disproportionate.   The odds of dying in a car accident or being seriously injured in one rivaled being shot by the sniper.
        Economists call overestimating unknown risks, "risk-ambiguity aversion."   Since the sniper shoots at random, and has no predictable pattern, everyone is a potential target whether they have a seat belt on or not.    The author went farther to explain that if half the people stayed at home, it would increase the risk of those who went out by reducing the mass of potential targets.
        I found only one article this morning that cited the real source of Terror.  It was in the Christian Science Monitor where the author of the piece noted that killing people wasn't the goal--injecting Fear was.      

        It would be easy for me to create Fear in my grandson today.  I could give him a full-course from my Marine Corps training on how to hit the deck and roll when a gunshot was heard.   I could teach him how to belly crawl along the crowded New York City sidewalks, and remind him to say his prayers before we left just in case God locked the gates to all those who forgot to say "hello" before they died.
       I could tell him horror stories of the "unprepared" and how they stand out of the crowd;  And teach him to walk with confidence, always moving and not standing still so he would make a difficult target so hopefully a sniper would fix his crosshairs on someone else.    I could tell him about the twisted nature of one who preys on people, and why that person shouldn't deserve to live after he's caught, and why executing him would protect the world from that animal's primal thirst to kill for fun.
       I could try and condition him to see blood gushing out of a person's head who got shot a few feet away from him, and why he shouldn't be afraid if he saw someone crumple and writhe in agony as death's claws sunk their nails into the person's heart, and their body went limp, life exhausted by a random killer.
      To supplicate him, I could use the Economist's figures, and show him the odds of being shot as minimal, and tell him I'd never won the lottery so I was outside the "statistical loop," not one of those people who catch the numbers on the good side of life, so the odds of me catching them on the bad side should be equally low.

My wife aghast at Kid's Ready-to-use Kids combat gear

     And, I could go on and tell him how the sniper has vowed to kill children by saying "none of your children are safe."  I could remind him he's a small target--bone-thin, only six--and that the sniper would probably pick someone older, bigger to insure he killed him or her rather than miss a shot on a smaller target.
      I would, of course, have to tell him I couldn't carry him on my shoulders until the sniper was caught, because being six-four, with him on my shoulders, the sniper would have a much easier target.   Plus, I would have to walk slower with him riding above me, and make it easier for the sniper's crosshairs to focus on his head, neck or belly.

Captain America dodging bullets

      On the Vigilant side of the coin, I could show him how to swivel his head in search of a glinting rifle barrel, or a strange movement on a rooftop or from a window.   I'd show him how to ratchet his head, jerking it slightly a degree at a time so his eyes could focus on the unexpected, alert for anything out of the ordinary.  I could tell him to pretend his eyes were laser beams, scanning, always scanning for the impending threat. He would really get into that I am sure.
      In our backpacks, we could place compresses and pain relievers if either of us got shot, and I'd show him how to tie off a wound, and, how to say the last rites, to rub a cross into my forehead if I got shot and died in his arms.
     Yup.   I could teach my grandson real Terrorism Vigilance before we went to 42nd Street, or to the Children's Zoo at Central Park, or, to Tompkins Square Park, or to FAO, or to the Museum of Natural History. 

     Or, I could just ignore it all.   And have a fun day with my grandson, teaching him how to have more Courage than Fear, more Conviction than Intimidation, and take more Right Action than fall into the pit of Complacency.
     I think instead of giving him a Fear-based background on how to defend himself against the odds of being a sniper a victim, I'm going to insure he has his Rescue Heroes in his backpack (in case we both need their help)..
     And, before I go, I'm going to re-read my Pledge of Vigilance, just to remind me what my job is as a Grandfather of Vigilance.

Oct 22--Is Humanitarianism Dead?

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