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As soon as news filtered out of a steam pipe blast in Manhattan yesterday evening, everyone's first thought was terrorism, proving once again that in the six terror free years since 9/11, the Bush administration has created a United States of hysteria - and handed the terrorists a victory they could never have achieved alone - changing our very way of life.
Investment banker Heiko Thieme summed up the situation yesterday, telling the media, "Everybody was a bit confused, everybody obviously thought of 9/11," following a underground steam pipe explosion that sent smoke billowing into the late afternoon New York skyline.
Yesterday's events, though tragic for those injured and the one person that died, were reminiscent of last year's incident in Washington D.C., where huge swathes of the city as well as schools and other buildings were evacuated and shut down after a construction drill was mistaken for gunfire in the Capitol Hill area.
The opportunity to parade SWAT teams, sniffer dogs, police with assault weapons and armed FBI tactical units wearing flak jackets did not go to waste on that occasion and the reaction was another damning indictment and a realization that the "terrorists" have won - they have changed our way of life and turned us into spineless scaredy cats who immediately panic at any loud noise.
This is akin to the Vietnam vet who, returning home from conflict, nearly had a heart attack every time a bus backfired. In that case, the soldier had every justification to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder - he had seen his friends die and had had people shooting at him every day, but can average Americans really cite the same excuse, or has the simple formula of constant fearmongering on behalf of the Bush administration turned the nation into a legion of mentally damaged jellyfish?
In reality, you're more likely to get killed by peanut allergies, accident causing deer or lightning strikes than acts of terrorism. To equal the danger that Americans place themselves in every day by driving their car down the highway, there would have to be a 9/11 every month. To reach the same level of risk that one undertakes in boarding an airline, you only have to travel eleven miles in a car.
Reports of suspicious packages that routinely turn out to be dirty diapers or packs of sandwiches have doubled since 9/11, swamping police and bomb disposal teams and distracting them should there be any real threat.