September 9, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 362
The Facade Of Terrorism
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, September 9-- Everything has appearances.   Then there is reality.
        Terrorism is one of those "appearances."   It is a facade, hiding the Truth behind its fakery.
        I've always felt the power of "false walls," facades that drive me back in Intimidation they might be real.  Often I feel like the crow who, upon seeing the scarecrow for the first time, flaps his wings in quick retreat.

        But crows aren't stupid.  When the realize the scarecrow doesn't move, and its body is made of straw, it soon hops around the cornfield consuming all it wants, laughing at the farmer who vaingloriously thought he could outsmart his foe.
        After a year of awakening to the fact the United States is vulnerable to attack from anyone at anytime, it seems we still haven't learned the lesson Terrorism brought to us.
         The lesson wasn't about our ability to be blown up.   The lesson was about our powerlessness to stop those who try.
         In the September 11 issue of Time Magazine, filled with stories about 9.11 heroes and victims, someone at the editorial board allowed an essay by Michael Kinsley slip between the covers.   It's called, "How To Live A Rational Life."   It should have been titled:  "Bah Humbug Terrorism!"
         Kinsley points out the absurdity of reacting to Terrorism the way America has.   In an early illustration, he cites how people boarding airplanes are searched relentlessly, while aboard the plane, first class passengers receive metal knives and forks--potential weapons that could spear through someone's heart.
         It's a small but important example are, in Kinsley's words:  "farcically trivial or farcically excessive."

      He points out that one who is crazy does the unexpected, the irrational, and as a result, no one can predict what will happen or defend adequately against it because the actions of the irrational cannot be predicted.    In other words, he points out, we should be doing less not more to thwart Terrorism.  
       He also notes that more people die each year from accidental drowning than died on September 11, and that it would take Terrorists blowing up 50 fully loaded planes to equal the number of driving deaths in America.
       His main thesis is that we should stop trying to second guess the Terrorists by overreacting--i.e., checking an old lady's shoes for bombs prior to entering an airplane.  
       His last line in the essay sums up his view:  "We need the courage and good sense to bury our heads in the sand a bit."

        While I agree with Kinsley that we are acting with utter absurdity in our efforts to make a "show" against the irrationality of Terrorism, I oppose the idea that it takes "courage" to bury one's head in the sand.    What that takes is Complacency.  Futility.  Intimidation.
        While a good portion of what he says is on target--that we are overreacting to Terrorism's facade, what he missed in his viewpoints was the power of Vigilance to protect the children, and their children's children from Terrorism's true threat--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
        I find it hard to believe an advanced nation such as America with the most sleek technology in the world for studying the human and mind and its potential, is obsessed with the skin of Terrorism and not with its organs.

       On the outside, Terrorism is about being bombed, or gassed, or nuked by some madman or group of madmen seeking revenge, or bent on issuing a Holy War against an ideology--all at the expense of the innocent.
        But when Terrorism's skin is peeled back, and the viscera of its inner workings are exposed, it's true carcinogenic nature comes into view.  Terrorism is an infection of the mind, a sense of powerlessness over one's primal fears.
       Terrorism as a word is defined in Webster as: 

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

       I think that definition is a bit flat.   Terrorism is the fear a child has he or she isn't loved enough.  It is the intimidation a child feels when he or she looks at other children and feels disenfranchised from them, alienated, less than, not worthy as.   Terrorism is a child waiting for the parent to strike them, or abuse them physically or emotionally.    It is the worker sitting at his or her desk waiting to be fired in the midst of layoffs, or that sense of fear that if your spouse doesn't love you you are a nobody.   Terrorism is about a man or woman feeling like a "failure," and spending time at the local bar to "feel good," while in his or her dreams all that is seen is a guy or gal pushing a rock up a mountain that continually falls down, and the cycle goes on ad infinitum.
       Terrorism is all about the virus of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   It's not about knives and guns and bombs and nukes.    It's about how we react to them as a society, and what we do as a result of their presence.       

       Contrary to Mr. Kinsley's viewpoint we should "bury our heads," I believe we haven't taken them out of the sand.    I don't think there's much difference in America between post and pre September 11.    The only thing that has happened is that we have tossed the word "terrorism" around so long we are getting tired of hearing it, and, as Mr. Kinsley so aptly points out, tired of the absurdities associated with reacting to it.
        That's why I believe we need to "pull our heads out of the sand," or, in a more visual way of expressing it, "pull our heads out of our anuses."
        The real Terrorist threat is our blindness to what the events of September 11 were all about.   
        If we look for the "rationale" of September 11, as Mr. Kinsley sought to point out was "impossible" because Terrorists are "irrational," we can find it not in the word "Terrorism," but in its opposite word, "Vigilance."
        Vigilance isn't about launching war on Iraq, or checking little old lady's shoes for bombs in airports, or stripping the U.S. Constitution of our basic privacy rights so government can snoop into our lives.   Vigilance is about the responsibility each citizen in America has to protect the children, and the children's children from the threats of Terrorism.
         In the Pledge of Vigilance, I've summarized my viewpoints on how America and the world can remove the facade of Terrorism being exploited by politics and the press, and see the genuine value of it, the true way to combat its forces.
         To me, the greatest weapon of defense against Terrorism is to recognize that we are the Terrorists.   We are the ones who allowed the Fear, the Intimidation, and the Complacency that Terrorism to feed upon us.   We supply the fuel for future attacks by reacting rather proacting to it.
        Mr. Kinsley was dead-on when he went through the litany of futile, Monday-quarterbacking efforts America has taken to try and shut the doors to future Terrorism.   No one can stop a madman from acting with madness.   No one ever has in history, and no one ever will.  For every madman that is killed or destroyed, another takes his place.   That's the true facade of Terrorism--it can never be eliminated, only countered.

        But we, Citizens of Vigilance, can indeed counter Terrorism at our doorsteps.  We can turn a child's Fear, Intimidation and Complacency into Courage, Conviction and Right Actions if we use the lessons we have been given from Nine Eleven.
        If we can believe that those who died that day are still alive in spirit, and have returned in the form of Sentinels of Vigilance, as Simonides memorialized his "Spartans of Vigilance" 2,500 years ago when he wrote his poem about the Battle of Thermopylae and told the world the Spartans had not died, but were alive, watching, guarding Greece from future Terror, then we can grasp the power of the message left in the wake of the events we call "tragic."  We can see them as not elements of a tragedy, but the first chapter in an Era of Vigilance.
        Defending our nation from Terrorism, to me, is rethinking and reevaluating our roles as Sentinels of Vigilance.    If we, as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts, and loved ones can't unify our efforts to reduce our Fear, our Intimidation and our Complacency that we are powerless over Terrorism, then we all lose.  Then we have our heads stuck in the sand.

          On September 11, 2002, tears will be shed.   People will feel the pain of sadness at the loss of loved ones.  Politicians will rattle swords.   Bagpipes will forlornly sing.   But there will be little hope shined into the grave of the memories of those who gave their lives for Vigilance that day.   Few will pull their heads out of the Sand of Complacency and call upon the Sentinels of Vigilance to restore us with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions, or charge us with the duty to build and re-build those characters into our children, and their children's children.  Few will say to the world of Terrorism that "Vigilance Will Fight Your Every Effort To Inject Us With Fear, Intimidation And Complacency, For We Have The Shield Of Vigilance In Our Hand, Rich With Courage, Conviction And Right Action!"

       So, as we approach the year-end mark of the Terrorist attack, we have a choice.  We can use Courage to pull our heads out of the sand, but not to put Band-Aids on Terrorism.    If we do pull out of the sand, it should be to become Sentinels of Vigilance.   If we do this, the Spirits of Vigilance from September 11 will cheer us.  And so will our children, and their children's children.

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