A March Against Family Violence in Caldwell, Idaho. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Greg Kreller)
At a certain point in my life, I studied shotokan karate with a remarkable teacher, and then, unable to find her equivalent in the San Francisco Bay Area, took up wing chun for a while with a very amusing guy. At that point, I realized that the main threat to my health and well-being was my own stress level and — well, you can see where this is going: yoga. There should be a national equivalent of that little trajectory from East Asian techniques for dealing with others to South Asian techniques for dealing with the self when it comes to real threat assessment: Americans die of lousy health and our lousy healthcare system, of natural disaster, and — at levels unequalled throughout the affluent world — of each other. Gun deaths in the U.S. in 2011: more than 11,000; in Japan that year, seven. From foreign terrorism in the U.S. that year: 0.
Some fears are convenient: terrorism has devoured money and civil rights and government surveillance at a rate that is itself terrifying. And it’s made “security” into doublespeak. In terms of actual American deaths, terrorists are right down there with sharks. (Zero domestic shark deaths in 2011, 12 worldwide.) Some fears are inconvenient: if you look at leading causes of death and injury for women, the terms “terrorist” and “husband” should perhaps be interchangeable. Male violence, much of it by partners and former partners, is the second highest cause of death for women between 15 and 44, worldwide. And in the U.S., suicide kills more of us than homicide, as Erika Eichelberger points out in her timely piece today.
To acknowledge what really threatens us is to upset two of the most guarded citadels in this country: the military and masculinity. They are perhaps the same force on different scales. Armed intervention is imperial machismo in the same way a raging husband or father is the military dictator of a household. Maybe “domestic terrorist” should be twinned with “domestic violence.” After all, the seldom acknowledged main form of such terrorism in this country in recent decades, anti-abortion violence, fits in comfortably, being an assault on women’s rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination.