When a terror attack happens in London and eight people are killed, world leaders line up to demonstrate their seriousness and give their thoughts and prayers to the victims. When the 9/11 attacks happen and 3,000 people are killed, it is a world-historical event. On the other hand, when 33,000 people die every single year in car crashes — a 9/11-sized death toll just about once per month, or around 90 people dying every single day — it’s counted as part of the noise; it’s the cost of living in a car-dependent society.

My modest proposal for our presidents is that the gravity of their public pronouncements be proportional to death tolls. Preventable deaths (and who would argue that automobile-crash deaths are not preventable?) are a superset of murders; murders are a superset of deaths from terrorism; deaths from terrorism are a superset of deaths from Muslim terrorists. The public wailing and rending of garments should match up with this ordering.