Here’s Jonathan Tepperman in an excerpt from a recent World Affairs podcast:
I don’t think terrorism is an existential threat [to the United States] …because the number of Americans killed every year in terrorist attacks is vanishingly small. More Americans are hit by lightning every year than die in terrorist attacks. More Americans drown in their bathtubs every year than die in terrorist attacks. The number of Americans killed by terrorism since September 11th, 2001 is something like 100 or 150. It’s minuscule. And that’s compared to more than 40,000 Americans who have been killed in handgun incidents. And double or triple that figure who’ve been killed in car accidents. The existential threat, if it’s there, comes in overreacting, in responding the wrong way to terrorism but not in the terrorism itself.
And then there are a lot of scary trends in the world. There are a lot of countries that are behaving in scary manners today. None of these represent existential threats to the United States either. Not China. Not Russia. For the simple reason that The United States is so overwhelmingly preponderant today in terms of wealth, innovation, and in its military power, that none of these countries can offer real competition.
Now climate change. There’s a real existential threat that defines the idea of an existential threat. And political dysfunction. Gridlock. The failure of our legislative branch to legislate. That potentially represents an existential threat because until that is resolved in some fashion none of these other problems can be addressed.
“I hate how ‘growing up’ means that we are taught not to be honest and vulnerable with each other in public. I want to know everything about everyone. I am so bad at small talk. At parties with strangers I want to talk about your daddy issues and your first kiss and what you wanted your life to become and whether or not that came true. It’s hard for me to live in a world where we are taught that people we do not know are ‘strangers,’ and where we are taught to afford infinite complexity to ourselves and not others. Most of the time I want to scream in large groups about all of the parts of ourselves that we have to censor in order to become coherent.”
“I struggle with how we have to aestheticize our pain – often make it beautiful – in order for it to be taken seriously.”
“I’m working on understanding apathy as a political strategy of survival, as an active process of desensitization to the cruelty of the mundane. I’m working on understanding how to feel a type of happiness detached from possession – how to truly feel accomplished outside of the various rites of capitalism we are ingrained to value.”