On Sunday, I was with my father over at Sturgeon’s Mill — a steam powered sawmill that dates back to the 19th century. Once a year, they fire it up. It is loud, with steam everywhere. And it filled me with a sense of dread. Everywhere on the property are reminders that life for people a hundred and fifty years ago was extremely hard and dangerous. I’ve provided a photo of one of the many bits of rubbish on the site. This is the 19th century equivalent of a power saw. The user connected a belt between it and a motor and then used it to cut logs. There is basically no guard and I have no doubt that people often lost lives and (literally) limbs.
Sturgeon’s Mill was part of the logging industry. Logging is still the most dangerous job in American. And it is far more safe now than it was then. The mill is now very much like a museum and there are many pictures of the people who worked at and around the mill. These were hard men. They couldn’t just assume that they would live into old age. There were many ways to die, and they saw that on the job every day. Many people in other countries face the same thing. But things have gotten infinitely better since that time.
As a result of this, it is deeply offensive when politicians stoke fear in people and talk about how we aren’t safe. And this is just what Marco Rubio is pushing as his new foreign policy, “The fundamental problem we have in America is that nothing matters if we aren’t safe.” Just on the merits, it isn’t true. Squirrels aren’t safe, yet they still have to go out and gather nuts. The idea that we must be “safe” before we can’t deal with anything else is the thinking of a coward. And let’s face it: for a long time, the rhetoric of the Republicans has been the rhetoric of cowards. Brave people don’t beat their chests.
This, of course, is all about terrorism, which understandably freaks people out. It’s similar to people’s fear of sharks. Most people would choose to be killed by a bear rather than a shark. But the truth is that sharks kill quickly. Everything I know indicates that being killed by a bear is a slow agonizing process. Terrorism is almost no threat — even for people outside the country. Last year, the CDC reported, “Motor vehicle crashes — not crime or terrorism — are the number one killer of healthy US citizens living, working, or traveling in foreign countries.” And just like with logging, cars are far safer than they used to be.
Jonathan Chait referenced the Nazi dentist torturer Christian Szell in Marathon Man, Morbid Marco Rubio Asks America, “Is It Safe?” He doesn’t put it this way, but Rubio’s kind of demagoguery is a form of torture. Even if one is safe, it is traumatic to be afraid — to be constantly told that you are not safe.
But Americans are safe. We are vastly more safe than we used to be. And the things we should worry about are simple things: workplace safety, careful driving, washing your hands before you eat. But look at Rubio’s plan: he wants to get rid of Obamacare, which would make the millions of people getting insurance through the plan far less safe. At the same, his Taken foreign policy ideas will also make us less safe when it comes to terrorism. They remind me of Tom Clancy Combat Concepts.
We are safe. But we will be less so if we allow Marco Rubio to become president.