Terrorists rely on irrational thinking to spread paralyzing fear. Stark evidence of this is that millions of Americans are probably more afraid of being killed in a terrorist event than dying suddenly of a heart attack or being diagnosed with incurable cancer. Yet, the chances of heart disease or cancer taking our lives are about 30,000 times greater than of terrorism taking our lives. That’s 3 million percent higher.
You’re many thousands of times more likely to fall victim to major depression and take your own life than you are to die at the hands of terrorist. Over 100 Americans a day die by suicide.
Think about that, in case you’re curtailing your travel plans or shying away from a sporting event or parade because you fear a terrorist attack. You’d be 30,000 times smarter to go get an EKG before the parade, if you haven’t had one, in order to check for cardiac ischemia. And you’d be at least 30,000 times smarter to go get a colonoscopy, prostate exam, testicular cancer screening or breast exam (or check your blood pressure) before attending a football game.
As frightening as the videos of beheadings are, as raw as our memories of 9/11 are as horrifying as the coverage of the Paris terrorist attacks has been, I still worry a whole lot more that I could get a call from my internal medicine doctor telling me I need to repeat a lab test that looks ominous or need to follow-up his physical exam with an MRI—let alone hearing that about one of my kids (which I truly dread and pray to God never happens).
We need to elect leaders who recognize the very real threat of radical Islam to civilized societies. But we also need not to panic, in our everyday lives.
None of this, of course, means we need not fight terrorism and extinguish ISIS and Al Qaeda. We must. But we must also do so strategically and methodically, without, as Franklin Roosevelt once said during the Great Depression, “unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
We need to direct more funding to our military, law enforcement and intelligence communities. We need to elect leaders who recognize the very real threat of radical Islam to civilized societies. But we also need not to panic, in our everyday lives. The statistics show that that would be completely irrational.
If you want to do something today to safeguard your life, don’t give in to terror and stop living your life. Go get one of the medical tests I mentioned, so that you have a better chance of living a long life. Really. Do it.
And if you want to save a child’s life, donate to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, or Save the Children at https://give.causemo.com/causes. Really. Please. Do it. Love has always been the antidote to fear. ISIS hasn’t come close to changing that and never will.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.