I recently returned from a trip to the Middle East with my wife, nine-year-old son, and a group of close friends. It was an amazing immersion in culture, sensation and joyful human contact. I am constantly encouraging people to go and experience it for themselves, but I keep hearing about ‘how brave I am’ and that they are not sure they “could take such a risk.”
This perception of threat seems to be disproportionate to the reality of those threats. I think that we are in danger of being so terrified by our sense of what reality is that we are making unjustified and even bad decisions on both personal and national levels. People drive bumper to bumper at 85 miles an hour without a worry, will ride without seatbelts, consume poor diets, and push environmental degradation onto the next generation; but the thought of visiting Egypt is a beyond the pale, welcoming refugees into our neighborhoods is unthinkable, and entire cultures are stereotyped with an unjust label. Terrorists win by frightening people into action (or inaction), but that threat rests on a very weak platform. Frightening things are done by terrorists, horrible things, but the odds of an act of terrorism affecting any single person are extremely small. The math is far more in favor of getting injured or killed while driving than it is from any terrorist group’s actions.
Courage is the best defense I can think of for terrorism. Go out and see the world, eat new foods, experience different languages and cultures, and while you’re at it, and make sure to travel within our borders as well. You will experience different languages, cultures and foods no matter where you go, but in the process, you will free yourself from irrational fear and broaden your horizons.