When I turn my car onto the street each day, I reflexively stay on the right side of the road; I have faith that’s what I’m supposed to do. And even as cars whiz past me in multiple directions, I have faith that each driver will obey the written and unwritten rules of the road.
When you think about it, it’s pretty remarkable how much we depend on that faith each day: Really, how hard would it be for an oncoming vehicle to cross the center line and plow straight into my car or yours? It only takes a simple flick of the wrist to turn one vehicle directly into the path of another, shattering that faith we have in the traffic system, which is as much a backbone of our society as anything.
Odds are good that barring some unforeseen calamitous event, nothing like a head-on car wreck is going to happen to us. Ever. That is where the faith comes in. It could happen, logically, but it won’t happen, realistically. Not to say that it won’t happen at all to anyone ever; simply to say that odds are it won’t happen to us, no matter how many times we see it happen to someone else on TV.
So what to make of the ongoing terror threats, where people can turn a throw-away camera and a bottle of Gatorade (or presumably Coke and Pepsi, regular or diet) into a lethal package capable of blowing up a plane?
Predictably, the neighbors of the plotters describe them as quiet, committed family people, driving the same roads we do each day and exhibiting none of the flair for the dramatic we expect from someone dedicated to blowing off one or more of our miscellaneous appendages. But it appears that somewhere along the line, their wrists slipped off the figurative wheels and their cars veered off-line and directly into someone else’s.
It’s interesting that as we worry about how safe it may be to travel at home and abroad and how much it seems as if Americans are targets, rightly or wrongly, it’s not so much anonymous others doing the damage; it’s really people next door to someone who are doing the plotting and damaging the faith we have in each other.
The Internet and e-mail and cell phones and iPods were supposed to be fellow travelers on our road to greater knowledge and communication, things to help us feel safe and grow smarter, but it seems as if the more these gadgets help us find out about each other, the more some of us decide that the rest of us don’t deserve to live.
That’s a scary thought, even for those like me who still have enough faith to turn onto the street tomorrow morning, sticking to the right like I’m supposed to.