The Eyes Of Argus Are Upon Us

Cliff McKenzie
New York City Combat Correspondent
Oct 12., 2001 (Note:  Story was written on this date, but not posted until today, Oct 24)

GROUND ZERO PLUS 32, Oct. 12 New York City--A hundred eyes, in front and back, watching everything, everybody.  Argus looks three-hundred-and-sixty degrees, standing vigil over Manhattan--Los Angeles—Chicago—Fayette, Ohio--Hood River, Oregon—Memphis—Bangor, Maine—Ellis, Montana—Dana Point, California. 
            Little towns, big towns, medium towns, communities, cities, prairie lands--the eyes of Argus are upon us.  Or, are they?
            I stumbled across the name of Argus in my ancient Thesaurus—so named because it is the treasure of words.  The book was created by a medical doctor named Roget and first published in 1852.  Roget, a medical doctor, had a penchant for understanding how words helped us travel through the mind.  He divided words into categories such as “volitional” and “non-volitional.”  He butted up opposites and delineated the degrees of meanings so we could see how Love graduated into Hate, or how Indifference grew into Suicide.  In his introduction, he dedicates the book not only to people seeking to use the right word to communicate, but also to “mind travelers,” those who know thoughts ultimate controls the way the universe is viewed by those who think them.
        I was looking up the words “vigilance” and “complacency,” seeking various meanings and alternative ways to express my concerns that America not let up on the search for our “inner” as well as “outer” security from Terrorism.  I felt a gradual and insidious surrender to intimidation and fear as we turned over the responsibility to fight Terrorism to the government and we waited for the next attack like sheep nervously looking for the wolves who had just taken one of their lambs.
         My apprehension was heightened as I scanned the news on television, and spotted the headlines screaming anthrax attacks, shouting the dangers of smallpox, and underscoring the impotency of our health and emergency systems to deal with mass bio-terrorism.
          The media used brass knuckles; smashing us with news Pandora’s Box has been opened and the Seven Deadly Sins have been released upon America. (as if we didn’t know) They were the doomsday Voices, promoting headlines of problems without offering any solutions, driving the nails of Fear and Intimidation deeper into the coffin of Security and Hope.
        What I saw wasn’t news.  It was Terrorism disguised as news.  Each story dripped acidic globs of Fear on the scar tissue of children’s secretly troubled souls.  The horror stories had no happy endings, taglines of Hope, no rainbows at the end of them.   Children hearing them by osmosis or directly, were left abandoned with the bogeyman of Terrorism.
         When a child asked his or her parents the vital, overriding question:  “What are we doing to fight the bad people?” the answer was a reflection of what the news was reporting:  “We’re bombing, strafing and killing them as fast as we can.”
         I thought about the “Go Kill The Terrorists” chant the media was promoting on behalf of the U.S. Government, and wondered how a child might feel knowing the solution to his or her safety was by killing others.   Not that I’m opposed to eliminating the enemy with force if there is a clear and present danger to the safety of any child, but I question whether “killing the Evil Ones” alone is sufficient justification to a child who has been infected with the virus of Fear and Intimidation?  I wondered if we, as Parents of Vigilance, owe a better answer to our children than shoving a sword in their hand and telling them the solution to Terrorism is killing the Terrorists.   But how do we do that?
         Terrorism is not a fixed state.  It is an amorphic nation of Hate and Evil that worms its way into a society and threatens its baseline of security.   It attacks through ambush, hits and runs and hides in the shadows of each neighborhood.  It waits to jump out and scare, frighten, intimidate at a moment’s notice those who are unprepared or complacent enough to assume it can be killed with weapons of destruction.
          Yet, we persist in targeting one person.  We promote one individual as the source of all Evil forgetting that Terrorism exists not only outside our nation, but also inside.   The people in Oklahoma City know that Hate and Evil know no national boundaries.   They know the guy next door with the crew cut and clean, washed face can kill innocent women and children as well as a bearded, dark-skinned Terrorist named bin Laden.
          That’s why I found Argus so fascinating.
         I wondered if the story of Argus could help battle the Terrorism that infects our children and us.
          As I roamed my eyes over the various words and phrases to describe “vigilance,” I stopped on the phrase, “eyes of Argus.”   I had no idea who Argus was.  My sense was he must be from Greek mythology.
         I went to the web, and after four search engines, came up with his story.   In mythology, he is claimed to be a creature with many eyes--up to a hundred or more.   He was used as a Sentinel.  His mission was to watch, guard and protect from harm that which put under his charge.
           Currently, we have turned over the Eyes Of Argus to the government.   We have relinquished control of our Vigilance to a source who is focusing its attention on the “killing of one Terrorist:” bin Laden.   But the story of Argus tells us that he can be seduced by his own power.  Argus can make mistakes.  Perhaps, as our government might make trying to seduce the American public into believing that its defense of Terrorism is the single and sole support of military action against its “Evil Head.”
          In Greek mythology, Argus was killed.  He was lured into a sense of complacency by Hermes who made him think that all was well.  Hermes, a master of deception not unlike the Terrorists, played his flute and told long-winded stories until Argus’ last eye shut.  Then Hermes destroyed the creature with a hundred eyes who was supposed to be an impregnable sentinel, the one everyone, including the gods, could count upon. 
          Had we turned the security of our children over to the Argus of Government, I thought?  Were we of the belief as a nation of parents that bombs and bullets would stop Terrorism?  Or, was government playing the flute and telling us stories to shut down our fears, to lull us into a state of inaction and complacency about taking matters into our own hands?  I wondered heavily about the seduction of thinking, “everything will be all right” when it truly wasn’t.   Terrorism was proliferating.   With each new attack by the military, the odds of Terrorism’s retaliation upon our country increased.  Violence was begetting violence, not eliminating it.   And the press was making the point over and over that we were not ready for the next attack, that we weren’t prepared.
            Abraham Lincoln said it best:  “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.”
          And that’s the dilemma—are we being fooled into thinking we fight Terrorism solely with bombs and bullets?  Or, do we have some part in protecting our children from the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that surrounds us like a quagmire
          The most Terrorized nation today is the one that exists in the mind of a child.  Whether we wish to admit it or not, the child is being bombarded with confusion, and a sense of emotional insecurity that radiates from a society waiting for the “next attack.”  What is endangered in the child’s nation is his or her freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom to be safe and secure in his or her neighborhood, at the playground, at school or simply walking with his or her parents down the street.
         The Eyes of Argus we see reflecting on television news and from the White House makes us believe—if we are so inclined—that the “problem is out of our hands.”
         The government bombs and the press reports the bombing.   There is no call-to-action by either the government or the press to put the full responsibility for our children’s defense on the parents’ doorsteps where it belongs. Neither the government nor the media is asking parents to become the Eyes Of Argus, watching and protecting our flock from harm.  Government has become the shepherd--we, the sheep.  The President of the United States is not standing up in front of television cameras as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, and pounding into our minds--”The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”  Yet, that is exactly the only thing we have to fear.  
         I look back in history and hear the Voices of other great leaders in times of dismay seeking to bring together the forces of the parents of an embattled nation.  I hear Winston Churchill’s Voice in his  “hands across the sea” speech proclaiming with stout defiance:  “…we shall fight in the streets...”   His speech targeted “average Americans” to support their former homeland from the oppression of Nazi Germany.  Churchill’s speech drove at the hearts of American families, and helped pressure the reluctance of FDR to provide support to England in its most dire moments.  
            Where is President Bush’s “hand-across-the nation” speech calling upon Americans to band together as Parents Of Vigilance to protect our children from the harm of Terrorism’s Fear, Intimidation and Complacency?  I hear silence.  White noise, it is called these days.
          Instead of a courageous appeal to American parents to take the fight into their hands, I see pictures of desert terrorist training camps being obliterated, as though the enemy didn’t know we were coming and were hanging around the camps waiting for us strike them dead.  I see children thinking Terrorism can be destroyed by military action, when Terrorism is an emotional weapon used to cripple a child’s sense of security.  Why isn’t government attacking the root of Terrorism in America?  Why isn’t it shouting for the banding together of the parents to rise up and speak out to the world that Fear and Intimidation in a child is the worse of all infections to its well-being, its confidence, its security?
         I hear only an antiseptic administration dribbling out words about “censorship” and “home security.”  I sense the arms of government pulling all the chips of national defense into the Washington beltway where the government becomes the Kings of Protection and we, the citizens, the Slaves of Terror.
          That isn’t right.
          The Eyes Of Argus cannot see into a child’s bedroom when they are focused on Revenge, Retribution and Annihilation.
         My fear is the Eyes Of Argus are focused on a bombsite, not on a child’s frightened heart.
          The media isn’t much help.
         I was embarrassed the other evening when I watched Ted Koppel’s town meeting.   He invited all the fear mongers to issue out their inept warnings about what America could do to battle Terrorism on the home front.  He demanded facts.
          The forum ended in a state of hopeless despair.  The experts were agreed we can do little to defend ourselves with gas masks or inoculations.  They stated our hospitals were ill equipped to handle disasters of mass nature.  It was stated that the federal government is holding billions of funds for itself while issuing a few million to the grass roots communities where the battle must be fought.
          But the most disturbing part of the show was when Koppel cut off someone who started to talk in what he called platitudes. “We don’t need well-meaning platitudes, we need facts here,” he said abruptly.
          I about fell off my chair.  The facts are, Terrorism on the home front can only be fought with platitudes of vigilance.   There are no facts that we can produce to defend ourselves against ambush or bio-poisons.  We don’t even manufacture anthrax antidote. Or, smallpox vaccine, for that matter.   What serums of protection we have does the government, controlled by Washington who will be the first to be inoculated hold.
           No platitudes!
           I cringed when Koppel vehemently opposed anything like Semper Vigilantes, or that we might possibly be well off trying to counter "fear" with “faith” and “hope,” and “courage,” or in some way gather the will of a nation through a system of Parents of Vigilance.
          I thought about the facts that platitudes such as the Parents of Vigilance, or Semper Vigilantes would bring to the families and children of America.
          What would such a show of human force do if thousands upon thousands stood up publicly to Terrorism and vowed to fight Fear with Courage, and Intimidation with Conviction and Complacency with Action? 
           It would circle the wagons around children.   It would cause parents who wore Semper Vigilantes armbands or logos to be reminded they were the first lines of defense against terrorism.   It would chip away at the public’s fear and signal to bin Laden and the other dark shadows of terrorism that America was taking a stand against the assault on their children.
          It would tell the world that America is more concerned with the protection of its children than its adults, and thus bring the world community down to the same baseline--that we as Parents of Vigilance cannot allow terrorism to threaten the internal or external security of any child, in any nation.
          It would rally the support of all mothers in the world who, by the nature of their maternal instincts, would look past the differences of politics and culture and religion and see only the face of newly born innocent child.  It would be hard for any mother to call such a living creature an “infidel,” or to charge it with “heresy,” or justify its death in the name of a Holy Decree, or include it as “just victim” for a jihad.
           I yelled at the television in disgust. 
          If there ever was a moment in history were platitudes were called for to stir the hearts of a nation to a state of vigilance, it is now.  It was a week ago.  A month ago.   It should have happened the instant the plane crashed into the Twin Towers.  
           But America’s strategic retaliation plan does not include the support and the rallying of American citizens behind a single grass roots cause.   To government, the development of community militias outside its control and management has been the great threat to its security.  If the people were to find they had more power than government to manage their affairs, then government would be weakened, and it power to tax and use funds without question would be delimited.
           Power doesn’t corrupt—but powerlessness does.  It corrupts the will to fight for what is right. 
           A few days after the bombing of the Trade Center I went to a seminar conducted by a company called First Responder, Inc.   It deals with providing governments and business and individuals with tools of readiness for disaster such as the one we experienced on September 11.   The history of terrorist attacks was reviewed, and our ability as a nation and local fire, police and hospitals to handle such attacks.   The bottom line was grim.   We are not ready.  We might never be ready with all the resources required to stave off the horror of biological or chemical attacks.
            But we are ready for platitudes.  
           We can’t put gas masks on our children when they go to bed at night, but we can tell them a fairy tale about Semper Vigilantes.  We can tell them about the Sentinels of Vigilance looking out for their protection.  We can tell them how Courage, Conviction and Action drives the dragons of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency from our Kingdom.  We can fortress them with faith in the future.
           Platitudes versus facts?
           I think it is time for America’s parents to become the Eyes Of Argus.  It is time we looked at what isn’t happening, as well as what is happening in our own living rooms.   Unless we counter the Terrorism that is leaking out of the newspapers, television and scenes of violent retribution by government, our children will not see an ending to the feelings they stuff inside when a firetruck goes by, or a plane flies overhead, or a car backfires.
           More importantly, our children need to see their parents doing something that Winston Churchill advocated to all:  “Stand For Something Or Be Nothing!”
            If a Parent Of Vigilance were to take one stand, it would be to protect his or her child from Fear.  It would be explaining to a child in child terms, how Terrorism is all about Fear, and how America is all about fighting Fear with Courage.  
           Parents of Vigilance would tell a child about the Sentinels of Vigilance, those spirits who rose out of the ashes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a lonely field in Pennsylvania to protect the child.  
            Parents of Vigilance would become hyperactive in their communities, demanding their local emergency services to install plans to assist the children in case of various disasters.   They would want to know  what the school evacuation plans were, and offer help in accelerating efficient procedures if none or inadequate ones were in place.
           They would make sure their children were fingerprinted, and that the family had identification systems that could help reunite them if they were separated.
           They would join with other Parents of Vigilance and work together in their local community and neighborhoods proactively rather than reactively, to guard and insure their children’s safety.
            The Eyes of Argus belong to the Parents of Vigilance.
            Become the Eyes Of Argus.
            Take the Pledge Of Vigilance today!

Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant.

            Cliff McKenzie

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