Democratic Underground

Life, Liberty, and Introspection
September 28, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton

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When I was a kid, we used to regularly visit my maternal Grandmother who lived on East 9th Street in Brooklyn, New York. One day, my brother and I decided to go for a walk and managed to get lost. Up and down the street we went - trying to find our way back to Grandma's house, back and forth, crossing block after block.

Eventually, in a complete panic, we happened upon a police officer and told him we were lost and he asked us Grandma's address but we only knew the street name and not the house number. He asked us what Grandma's house looked like and we could only provide him with a vague description - all the houses looked so similar.

Finally, Dad drove up and directed my brother and I to get into the back seat of the car and firmly told us, "What's the matter with you kids? I have been driving around for a couple of hours looking for you. Something could have happened to you! The next time you are lost, stand still and I will find you!"

We are lost.

The psychotic holocaust that was inflicted upon this sweet land of liberty by the terribly misguided cult of elusive strangers over two weeks ago has nearly knocked the world off its axis. In addition to flashing images, provided 24/7 by broadcast news - panning sites from one end of the globe to the other, there are dizzying ticker tapes of news updates running along the bottom of TV screens regarding everything from the status of rescue efforts to economic fallout issues to the multilateral aspects of President Bush's international initiative, "Operation Enduring Freedom."

We are panicking.

While this has been a devastating situation for everyone, this is no time for any leader to panic. When the President said, he wanted to "get them running," I think he meant the terrorists and not our elected officials. Currently, there are so many governmental actions going on at the same time, that news stations must jump from one event to the next, deciding whatever segment is more or less important. Congress appears to be so scattered right now that important legislation is blitzing along with little or no public debate as our representatives are all swimming in a red, white and blue jam of unity. Businesses are asking for bailouts based on hysterical projections before looking beyond demands from their shareholders and assessing operations to make adjustments including executive salary reviews.

Freedom is at stake - in more ways than one.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is also pushing Congress for sweeping new antiterrorism legislation. (1) While some of this legislation may prove to be necessary to expedite the search and seizure of otherwise private information and the required detaining and/or arrest of suspects, it could infringe on the Bill of Rights for other Americans, where amendments should certainly be considered. Most disturbing about the recent hearings about this legislative drive was the fact that after Attorney Ashcroft pleaded his side of the argument, the ACLU's testimony was evidentially blacked-out on the airwaves.

This apparent act of censorship followed the Government's decision to veto an interview with the Taliban on Voice of America. A reporter was just fired for writing an opinion about the President and Ari Fleischer recently told the press, "Watch what you do, watch what you say," with regard to a comment taken out of context on Bill Maher's show, Politically Incorrect.

There are deliberations about pulling in our welcome mats from our borders, national identity cards, video surveillance, armed pilots on commercial flights and all kinds of new security measures. Do Americans have reason to be concerned about the people's right to express themselves, getting the real news and being included in discussions regarding our liberties? I certainly think so.

We must look at ourselves.

The Administration is running all over the globe. The White House reports that Osama bin Laden terrorist cells operated and continue to operate within the United States. In July of 1998, The U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (2) initiated and ultimately researched and provided the most comprehensive analysis of U.S. national security in 50 years concluding with its Phase III Report: "Roadmap for National Security: Imperative for Change." The Phase III Report claims to address "a broad range of issues, from securing the national homeland to redesigning government institutions and examining human requirements for national security, including the role of Congress."

While time is certainly of the essence in protecting America, I would think that this Report would be the centerpiece of debates regarding any security legislation. Where was this Report months ago? I am delighted to hear that Governor Ridge has been appointed as Director of Homeland Security. However, if this Director has limited power to enforce the actions of multiple organizations that can't even get their act together within their own agencies at a time when homeland security is of paramount concern, what's the point?

We are talking to strangers.

There also aren't necessarily friendly policemen on every corner of the globe who will help us. We know who the terrorists might be, but we don't know who they all are, what nations they are from and/or to what extent they have influence within governments. Sending ground troops into a hotbed of what the President formerly referred to as "rogue nations," and now, all of a sudden, lifting existing arms embargoes and considering arming some of these nations in exchange for say-so support sounds like a deal of dangerous blind-trust to me.

Until we have a clear mission, putting our servicemen and women on the ground and stirring up an already out-of-control situation will, no doubt, cause further loss of life to more innocent people not only in other nations, but potentially in the United States as well. It might be time to stand still.

We are a nation of law and order.

There are some in the media who could only be described as part of a lynch mob - those who seek to exact immediate revenge, which is not only uncalled for, but could seriously escalate this matter. In an unparalleled historical endeavor, President Bush is proactively mounting the biggest international coalition to track down the renegades involved in the multiple attacks on this nation and bring them to justice. This should be applauded.

President Bush says, "We must be patient." And while I have disagreed with many of the policies that the President has put forth in the past, I have every confidence that President Bush, his Administration, Congress, and the international coalition will find these terrorists and eventually reduce the acts of violent anarchists.

If we are patient. If we also look at ourselves. And if the world, in the 21st Century, develops a greater social consciousness, including tolerance - the cornerstone of Democracy.