(2001) Right now this whole country is united in its condemnation of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, and the anthrax assaults. Over 3,000 innocent people were killed and the expectation is that there will be more deaths before this stuff is, at least temporarily, over. These attacks were horrible and tragic and sad beyond expression, but they weren't really preventable. The crazy will always be with us and this is not, in spite of Ashcroft, a police state.
What were preventable were the approximately 430,700 tobacco-related premature deaths in the United States during the last 12 months. What were also preventable were the approximately 300,000 obesity-related premature deaths in the United States during the last 12 months. And don't think that some of the obese individuals were also smokers--these are figures that exclude people who used tobacco. So you have a total of around 730,700 folks between the ages of 34 and 72 who successfully committed slow, painful, expensive, debilitating, and very messy suicides. Next year we will add another 730,700. Thereabouts.
I am not even counting the 105,000 alcohol-related deaths, 21,000 illegal drug-related deaths, and 30,500 outright suicides annually.
And more horrifying than the numbers themselves is this: all those preventable premature deaths will have a trickle down effect. They won't stop there. Smokers have more children who smoke, the obese overfeed their kids, suicides don't just seem to run in families, and alcoholism has at least some genetic base.
I don't want to minimize what has happened regarding terrorism in the United States. What I want to do here is to take a look at real risk as opposed to perceived risk. What I want is for people to be less afraid of the contents of their mailboxes and more afraid of the contents of their refrigerators. I want parents to worry less about their children being harmed by violence in school and more about their children being harmed by drinking Coke all day in school.
What happened in New York and Washington, D.C., was real and it was bad, but by and large Pogo had it pegged:
So go ahead and lock your doors. Get an alarm system and a panic room. Vote Republican. Never talk to strangers. Do whatever it takes for you to feel secure. But remember: actuarially, YOU are your own worst enemy.
Saints celebrating feast days on November 2, All Souls Day, include Saint Victorinus and Saint Marcian.
Stephanie Powers celebrates her birthday today (1942, Hollywood) .