Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Terrorism is Like Mosquitoes

There's an old wives' tail that goes something like this: Male mosquitoes buzz, but don't bite. Females bite, but don't buzz. So it's when you don't hear anything that you should worry.*

I was reminded of this yesterday, when news broke of the failed plot, allegedly by Iran, to recruit members of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Syrian ambassador to the United States by bombing an undetermined location in Washington, DC. The media has been making the obvious comparisons to a spy novel or Hollywood script.

The plot seems amateurish. The evil Iranians we all fear can certainly do better than this, can't they? In the Middle East, the story has been met with outright disbelief.

In the sage of another highly publicized failed plot, the "underwear bomber" pled guilty in Detroit today. Apparently what he wanted more than anything was the chance to make a public statement about why he did it, and so he did.

Both of these plots should, from one perspective, terrify me. Not only do I live in the Detroit area, I've taken Flight 253 from Amsterdam. I have family in Washington, DC. These plots represent plots against people and places I care about.

And yet, I'm not terrified. To me, these plots seem like the male mosquitoes. They're the ones that we notice, but not the ones that are dangerous. They make the noise, but they don't bite.

I'm not worried about these. If this is the best the terrorists can come up with, I think we're OK. What scares me isn't the ones we know about. It's the ones we don't. Remember, it's the silent, female mosquitoes that bite.

* Like many pieces of "common knowledge," this turns out not to be true. While it is only the females that bite, the buzz is the sound of beating wings and comes from both males and females.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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