A plea to our state and federal legislators: Whether the September 11 terrorists have succeeded or not depends on what you do in the aftermath.
17 September 2001
I think all of us in this country have been asked by friends about our feelings regarding the attack our society suffered on September 11, 2001. I write this one week after the tragedy occurred.
In response to these chilling acts of sheer evil, it has been heartwarming to me to see the outpouring of charity and patriotism from so many in our nation. Seeing the entire group of people who had just fled the Pentagon turn back in response to the call to aid their comrades still inside made me proud to be an American. We will never know the exact details of what transpired aboard the fourth aircraft just before it went down, but what we do know tells us that some of the greatest heros in our nation's history perished before or as the plane fell upon a piece of uninhabited land in Pennsylvania.
However I fear there will be another reaction to the carnage. I expect that already our elected officials are hearing from many of their constituents with the cry, "No measures should be considered too extreme in ensuring that nothing like this could ever possibly happen again."
Don't misunderstand me, this horrific incident provides lessons that we must learn from and act upon. Beforehand we didn't consider the personal grooming items of airline passengers to pose a threat. We now know differently. More restrictions on what may be carried onto an airplane, and closer inspection of these items, are necessary and appropriate.
We have also seen other changes at our airports. One of them is that only ticketed passengers are now allowed past security to the terminals. I see no indication that this restriction is temporary. Being as the hijackers all appear to have had their own valid tickets, I fail to see how this particular security measure would have impeded them, and therefore I fail to see why it is needed.
We have been shown some specific weaknesses that we have had. The fact that four planes could be simultaneously commandeered shows that the security inadequacies extend throughout our entire commercial air travel system. We must deal with this, but we must not take this as an indication that our entire pattern of living needs increased security. If we do, then we grant the terrorists their victory, for societal security is only improved at the cost of personal liberty. We must not let them succeed in curbing our freedoms and impacting each of our daily lives.
Some have said that our lives will never be the same. If we take this as the truth, then our enemies have accomplished at least a portion of their evil objectives.
It is not necessary and it is not appropriate to plot out every possible scenario of terrorist attack, and to implement solutions to the countless myriad of theoretical threats.
It cannot be denied that we have a lot more laws today than we did twenty years ago. Many things are now illegal which were not prohibited in the very recent past. Enforcement has been stepped up dramatically, and enforcement techniques are becoming more and more aggressive. Is this just a reasonable response to society being less safe than it was twenty years ago? As a freedom loving American, I am compelled to respond with a loud, Hell no! In the last two decades I have come to fear excesses in my government much more than I fear criminals and terrorists.
We know those, within our country, who have already been misguidedly advocating more restrictions on the people, will use this tragedy to lobby for causes completely unrelated to air piracy. They have been payed much more heed than I am comfortable with in the past, and sadly, I know that this will only renew their vigor to bring about a society that is more secure in general.
Now we wait. It is in the hands of our representatives, at all levels of government. Will they deal with the specifics of this attack, or will they pursue a broader public safety agenda? When we see what new laws will be passed in response to this, then we will know the extent of the damage done by the terrorists to their ultimate target, our freedoms, western culture, and the American way of life.