Planning for a terrorist attack is a lot like planning for a championship parade without knowing what sport was won, or what city is hosting it. It is simply ridiculous for this government and for the people of this country to allow terrorism to permeate our home spaces and families.
The other day, my mother casually mentioned over dinner the prospect of making an escape plan “just in case” of a terrorist attack. This was the first real instance in recent time that the prospect of a terrorist attack has really entered my family or home. It feels violating to have to think of fleeing your home, your pets and your lifestyle because of recent government warnings, or zealot fanatics with a point to prove. Even more violating is the insinuation — and in some circles, the recommendation — that the public buy duct tape and plastic to shield themselves against a biological or chemical attack. Short of spawning the sales of duct tape and plastic sheeting, what could this administration possibly be thinking?
Perhaps President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Secretary of State Colin Powell see that this is a way of letting the public feel somehow in control of the impending threats. I certainly hope our government has better plans to protect our country, or else I see a giant tarp stretching from Maine to Florida, New York to Los Angeles, fastened in by a nice layer of duct tape. Sorry Hawaii and Alaska, this tarp doesn’t reach you folks, but it’s been a great run with you guys!
Such ridiculousness is shocking coming from a culture that is normally poised in the face of danger. What our country needs now is inspiring words and leadership from the President. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to the Presidency in 1933, he addressed the country with reassuring, comforting words. “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” They are words that every American grew up hearing in elementary school lessons. They are words that reassured a tense American culture that the President was in control and everything would be OK.
Let me make this perfectly clear: DUCT TAPE AND PLASTICS DO NOT MAKE ME FEEL OK! This administration needs to stop treating our current international situation as if it were the Y2K scare. All across America, Home Depots and supermarket shelves are running bare of supplies by overzealous citizens feebly trying to protect themselves from another terrorist attack. In New York City, armed gunmen stand poised outside of Madison Square Garden, complete with M-16 rifles and armor, while pedestrians stroll past. People are lining up to buy “No-Rad,” anti-radiation pills and gas masks.
Meanwhile, late last week, ABC News reported that the al-Qaeda members who reportedly tipped off the government about alleged “dirty bomb” attacks in New York City, Washington D.C. and Florida were actually lying. What many people fail to realize, or simply overlook, is the basis of terrorism. By simply overreacting and panicking to idle warnings, we allow ourselves to become fodder and play for terrorists. Like it or not, America is a country built upon and founded on the ideals of staring danger and terror in its face, and beating it. Now, in seemingly our darkest hours in decades (and with the help of 24-hour cable news networks), many Americans are wound up tight and fearful.
At the root of all this concern and panic are more than just terror threats, or elevated alert statuses. The root of this fear lies in what many countries believe to be imperialistic American foreign policy. The Bush administration is juggling the War on Terror, a powder keg of a situation in Iraq, public relations with the United Nations and what seems to be a crisis-in-the-making with North Korea. The big question in all of this: Is now really the time for war?
According to a recent Time Magazine article, Charles Rangel, a Democratic congressman from New York, and Senator Ernest Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina, are looking to “introduce a bill that would reinstate the draft, which ended 30 years ago.” The article’s writer, Douglas Waller, asks the following question: “Would Congress and the American public be so eager to wage war if everyone’s son and daughter might be called to fight?” Waller goes on to say that, “Of all the members of Congress and Senators who voted last fall to allow George Bush to use force against Iraq, only one had a child serving in the enlisted ranks of the military.”
Today’s college-student could very well be tomorrow’s battle-field statistic. You may be wondering how all of this ties together. Simply put, poorly organized and poorly thought-out plans dealing with foreign policy (specifically Iraq) are only going to result poorly, with consequences via dramatic loss of American life and terrorist attacks on the home front. Do we simply look away and act as if this problem with Saddam Hussein does not exist? Certainly not, but now may not be the time to address a 12-year-old situation. Let’s prioritize our aggression here, Mr. Bush. How many wars can we fight at once?
The people making the decisions to send us to war are not the people who are going to fight in it. Moreover, they are not the people who are going to lose friends or family in it. These sons or daughters of senators and congresspeople are not on the battlefield ducking bullets. The President is not sending his two daughters into combat. On the same note, the people making the decisions to send us to war are not standing in line to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting, as they are safely guarded by the U.S. Marines. Simply put, if it hits the fan, the leaders of our country will be safely underground in a bunker somewhere with their families.
I simply ask our government to put a little bit of thought into the people they were elected to represent, the very same people whose lives are going to be put in danger; the very same people who are frantically waiting in line to buy duct tape or plastic, anti-radiation pills or gas masks. Remember in your talks of inspections and orange alert levels the voiceless, nameless face of America, the jaded masses that live here seeking freedom, and die here having left no legacy. Consider the quality of life that we, the American public, the blue-collar workers and second-class citizens, have been tossed thoughtlessly into by hot-headed, often irrational governmental decisions. And remember the values that this government was founded on, none of which mentioned the pursuit of duct tape and plastics, rather life, liberty and happiness, lest the American dream become an international nightmare.
Posted to the web 2/20/03.