So here I am, writing this blog while simultaneously staring at the television above my desk. Flipping back and forth between CNN, Fox News, you name it. Not of course that I'm expecting to see anything particularly unique since all the headlines seem to say something along the lines of "TERROR STRIKES HOME!" It's scary to think about it: how these people lived among us for years and lived their lives as seemingly normal Americans. Somewhere along that timeline, they became radicalized, and all of a sudden, their house became a rather abnormal mix of children's toys and pipe bombs. There could be hundreds of these people living among us and we wouldn't even have the slightest clue who they are. You can be very easily tempted into a knee-jerk reaction of paranoia. Suspect everyone, trust no one. You start to suspect that anyone with tan skin or a hijab could be a terrorist. Let's set aside this political correctness nonsense for a moment. Honestly, who could blame you for becoming paranoid. The way the media blows up these attacks for weeks, sometimes months on end is almost as traumatizing and fear inducing as the attack itself.
After the Paris terror attacks, I too began to get drawn into this cycle of fear. But the recent shooting attack at San Bernardino made me realize something. I'm giving these people what they want by becoming afraid. While the prime goal of these terrorists is to wage jihad and kill as many of us as possible, a second objective of them is the adverse psychological effect that these attacks have on us. They want us to be afraid to wander outside, to gather in large crowds, to enjoy the very liberties and freedoms that make America what it is.
Here's what you shouldn't do; giving into your fears and being paranoid and constantly asking yourself, "Am I next?" Being afraid to walk outside because of the remote chance you might become a victim is absurd. Did you know that on average, you'll experience some sort of a vehicular collision every eighteen years? If you're a new driver at seventeen years old, chances are you'll have some sort of a collision by the time you're thirty-four. Over a hundred people die every day in car accidents, but I'm willing to bet you don't start your car and merge into traffic every day repeating in your mind, "Will I be killed in an accident today?" So if you're immeasurably more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident, there's no reason you should fear that ever so remote possibility that you just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We need to show these terrorists that they can knock down our buildings and break our bones, but they'll never break our spirit and desire to live freely.
Still believe it's rational to be afraid? Let's take a look at Israel, where terrorism is unfortunately a much more dangerous threat and are surrounded on all sides by Islamist groups who would love nothing more than to slaughter every last Jew living in Israel. Israelis are fully aware of these dangers but you don't see them living in continuous fear and contemplating over whether it's safe to take a bus or walk on the streets of the Old City. If Israelis reacted to every terrorist attack with trembling fear and paranoia, than they'd be giving the terrorists exactly what they want. They want us to be afraid to live free, so why should we voluntarily give them what they want?
It's a no brainer that of course you should always be aware of your surroundings. Whether it be merging into traffic on a busy highway or keeping an eye out for a backpack in Times Square that definitely doesn't belong there. Vigilance is important, it's the first line of defense in stopping an imminent attack in a society that keeps it's eyes and ears open for something that doesn't fit the norm. However we cannot let the fear caused by these terrorists to rob us of our sanity and freedom we take for granted as Americans. In his 1932 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It'd be a true shame if we capitulated to the psychological trauma caused by these attacks and constantly live our lives in fear of when and where the next attack will be. A vigilant society is a safe society, but a frightened society is a surrendered nation. I, for one, will continue to live my life and enjoy the God-given rights I have in this wonderful country as I've done so in perfect safety for the past eighteen years of my life.
My name is Benjamin Jaffe. I was born and raised in South Florida and plan on majoring in political science at Hebrew University in Israel.