All these are important. But they pale in comparison to other issues that are more personal and more immediate, because they are the ones most likely to kill us. I've come up with a list of the most dangerous concerns that are right in front of our eyes, the reasons why we are most likely to die prematurely. A top 8, if you will. I list them in order, counting down to the worst killer at the end -- not to be morbid, but as a warning. If we pay attention, maybe we'll dodge a bullet.
8. Global warming. The storms are fiercer, the fires hotter, the flood waters rising. At least one scientist speculates that deadly bugs and bacteria trapped in the Arctic ice will be unleashed on humankind as the ice slowly melts. Honestly, I don't think global warming will kill me. It might kill my grandchildren, but not me.
7. Airplane crash. I know, I know, it's supposedly the safest way to travel. Tell that to the 346 people who went down with the Boeing 737 Max. And remind the seagulls to get out of the way of the jet engines. Okay, I will probably not be killed in an airplane crash, especially since I don't fly too often. But I am flying to Las Vegas next week, and I know I'll be a little nervous stepping aboard the plane.
6. Opioids. Again, I think the odds are with me, especially since I don't take anything more potent than Advil or Tylenol. But I realize that opioids are seductive. Probably very few of the 70,000 Americans who died of drug abuse last year ever thought they'd be a victim, either.
5. Nuclear armageddon. North Korea. Iran. Pakistan. Russia. Islamic terrorists. Any of these people could wipe us out at any time. I wouldn't be surprised if we're exterminated in a nuclear holocaust long before global warming kills us. Of course, we've been living with this threat our whole lives. But just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen.
4. Gun violence. There are some 30,000 shooting deaths every year in America. More than half are suicides. I'm not suicidal. I don't own a gun. Also, I'm not African American, and for a host of reasons black Americans are eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than white people. Still ... I do go onto a college campus about once a week, and that's where some shootings occur, and so every once in a while I do think about it.
|A scary sight|
2. Traffic accident. If boarding an airplane, stepping into the shower or walking onto a college campus makes me a little nervous, then getting into my car should fill me with terror. And sometimes it does . . . for example, when a ten-ton semi is bearing down on me at 70-some mph, or an aggressive driver is weaving in and out of traffic, or someone is tailgating me on the highway because I am only going 5 mph over the speed limit and they want to go 10 or 15 mph over the speed limit. And then I notice, while they're breaking three or four traffic laws they are simultaneously ... talking on the phone! Probably the most dangerous place any one of us goes is onto an American highway.
1. Ourselves. I have left the most dangerous issue to the last. I know I'm supposed to eat right. But does that stop me from reaching for the sugary donut? I know I'm supposed to exercise. But does that stop me from saying to myself, Oh, I'll do it later? Or I'm supposed to read a book, or do a puzzle, or enhance my social life by going to a party. All these things are supposed to make me live longer. But instead I flop on the couch and watch a rerun of some stupid TV show I already watched a few years ago.
Yes, we can urge the politicians to address global warming and the nuclear threat. And they should. We can urge drivers to slow down on the highway. And they should. But sometimes we are our own worst enemy.