Hundreds of thousands of our countrymen are being massacred, often in front of our eyes, yet we do nothing. It is an astonishing failure of the political system in our nation. Consider: after 2,977 innocent people were murdered by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, we reorganized the entire Federal Government. The Patriot Act, which practically shreds the constitution, was passed by large majorities in the Congress although the bill was so long few had read it.
As sad as the deaths on 9-11 are, the total number of dead doesn’t even come close to the innocents massacred in this country each year in a manner so gruesome we look away from it. Deny it. Want to know nothing of it. Incredibly, the President, no President, speaks about it. Neither party puts forward a plan to stop the killing. Yet most of these deaths are preventable. If we only had the will and leadership. We don’t. It would also cost a lot of money. Raise taxes? Never. Our politicians are too afraid to even mention the possibility. But let me ask you, would you pay more in taxes to save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans being killed each year in plain sight? Would you pay more in taxes to reduce the number of people who will grieve the rest of their lives for a loved one lost in a manner we could prevent? I would.
Yet our level of denial and self-delusion on this issue is so great that only a few will have guessed what I’m writing about. Allow me to call your attention to a number: 368,893. This number represents the official figures for the total of men, women, and children killed in automobile accidents in the USA between 2001 and 2009.
That’s right. 368,893 Americans have been killed in automobile accidents between 2001 and 2009 – about the same time as we have been fighting in Iraq. Between March of 2003 when American troops first went into Iraq through 27 October 2010, the United States has suffered 4,427 soldiers killed in Iraq. We mourn these men and women as we should. Their families grieve for them and will do so for years to come. Think of the grief and the memorials and the ceremonies to honor these fallen men and women. Then think of the grief and the memorials and the ceremonies to honor those men, women, and children killed in automobile accidents. Of course, there are no memorials or ceremonies for those slain on the highways. Just grief.
“War means fighting and fighting means killing,” said Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA. And war also means spending. Lots of spending. According to the non-partisan group, National Priorities, which tracks actual hard dollar Federal expenditure, the war in Iraq has cost American taxpayers $740.3 billion from its inception through 30 September 2010.
So I pose the following to you: if we as Americans were willing to spend that much money to fight in Iraq, why are we unwilling to spend that much for infrastructure improvements which would dramatically reduce traffic deaths? In 2009 alone, 33,808 people were killed in automobile accidents in the US. Think of the grief, of the shattered lives. And we could prevent most of these deaths. How many more hundreds of thousands will die before we do something? (One million people are killed worldwide in automobile accidents according to the World Health Organization.)
Is the solution complicated? Yes. Would it take several years for the Congress and the President and the states to come to agreement? Yes. Would it be difficult politically for officials at every level of government? Yes. Responsibility for roads and road safety in the USA is split among many entities including the Feds, the states, the counties, municipalities. Because so many are in charge, no one is in charge. To fix all our roads and bridges and dangerous places on the highway which account for most of the auto deaths, the Federal government would have to have money, lots of money, as well as unprecedented new powers to oversee how states, counties, municipalities, and other political sub-divisions spent their road and transportation infrastructure funds.
So I will say again: after 2,977 innocent people were murdered by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001 we reorganized the entire Federal Government. We passed the Patriot Act, which gave unprecedented new powers over our lives and liberties to the Federal government to fight terrorists. And we became embroiled in a war in Iraq ostensibly to prevent these same terrorists from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction and have spent $740 billion to prosecute that war. Yet in 2010, 2011, 2012 almost 100,000 people will die on American highways. And yet we seem unwilling to do a thing about it.