Tonight my 16-year-old daughter is going with some friends to a concert. Somehow, in giving her both permission to go and the money for the ticket (in exchange for jobs around the house that she hasn’t quite completed yet), I neglected to ask exactly where the concert was, figuring that it was somewhere within 45 minutes of here. I just found out that it was in Albany…Albany…three days ago. Albany’s two and a half hours from here! Had I known that before…
But it was too late. I know, a lot of parents would disagree with me, saying that it’s never too late to change your mind on something like that, once you have more information; and that you’d have to be crazy to let your 16-year-old go to a concert with friends that was two and a half hours away. But you know something, she didn’t intentionally withhold the information from me, she says that she told me that the concert “wasn’t here.” And knowing the friend that she’s going with and how good she is with sharing information, she may not have known herself.
I thought about this carefully, and after ascertaining that they were being driven to and from Albany by a responsible adult, who is the 29-year-old sister of one of the friends, I relaxed, and told her to have fun. And then when I got a phone call from that 29-year-old sister, giving me her phone number and copious details about how she planned to deal with them, I relaxed even more.
But I know that many parents would be saying, “No bleeping way. Too many things could happen!”
I agree lots of things could happen. Lots of things could happen right here in town at a concert at the Dome up at SU, or even downtown at the Landmark Theater. Yes, they could get into a car accident on the way to or from Albany…just as they could get in an accident to or from a venue right here in Onondaga County. The likelihood of something happening doesn’t change with the distance it is from home.
But the people who worry about things like this are all dealing with the same unspoken mindset…“that death only has to win once” for all your worries to seem justified.
Yes…death only has to win once, but usually it doesn’t. Usually it doesn’t even get in the game. We can talk about “all” the horrible accidents we’ve heard of on the Thruway between Syracuse and Albany (and how many have there really been over the past 10 years?) while totally ignoring the many more people who safely make that trip every day.
But I’m not really here to talk about the concert. That’s just a lead-in to something else.
I’m no statistician, I don’t even play one on TV, but I do know a few; and they say that people in general are horrible at assessing risk…often basing it on their emotions and the skewed samples that they see. I knew an emergency room nurse who refused to let her teenaged kids ride their bikes in the street because bike riders came into her emergency room after having been hit by cars. I talked to a police officer many years ago who said that you should never let your kids on the internet because that’s where stalkers are. These people saw all the worst cases as part of their jobs, and extrapolated that out into everyone else’s experience.
And they were wrong.
They were saying that death…or severe injury…or an abduction…only has to win once in order to make the activity too dangerous for anyone to be involved in.
And this is the mindset that many people have about immigrants…both legal and illegal, and especially about refugees from “dangerous countries.” That “one Skittle in 10,000” might be poisonous, so we shouldn’t have any Skittles at all. That one immigrant in 10,000 could be a rapist, murderer or terrorist. To them, death only has to win once for all those people to be dangerous.
But in their fear of what they can’t control, they forget one very important thing: Yes, death only has to win once…but usually it doesn’t even play at all. And to live in the constant state of fear that they have isn’t living, as far as I’m concerned.
And so, now that I’ve said this, I hope my daughter has a good time at the concert, and she’s been instructed to text me when she gets there and when she leaves.