The West in general and the United States in particular has received another audio tape from Osama bin Laden warning of a future attack by al Qaeda on American soil. The news was received with the usual flurry of excitement by the media; we have since heard many opinions from experts on the significance of yet another warning against America from our leading terrorist enemy. Some attribute little significance to yet another threat against us, feeling comfortable with the preparations we have made against such attacks and the fact that we have not felt another sting from al Qaeda at home since 9/11. President Bush on the other hand advises we take the warning seriously and has called for support of his program to continue monitoring telephone calls made abroad by Americans to suspected terrorist organizations and individuals as essential to our defense. We believe that all threats of terrorism against Americans at home or abroad must be taken seriously because deadly terrorist activity continues around the world often threatening the United States and our allies, and that the public has a role to play in our defense.
We learn early on in life to anticipate danger usually as the result of being victimized by it. Whether it was the neighbor’s dog that frightened you with a growl or the pain of doctor’s needle when vaccinated, you learned to associate danger from an experience and tried to avoid the source of it in the future. In time we learned that not all pain was dangerous, and while it was unpleasant it could also warn and protect us from real danger. By learning to accept physical or emotional pain as a warning, we learned also to anticipate the danger that it represents and to make decisions about how to deal with risks of harm to ourselves and others.
Witnessing the horror of hurricane Katrina’s visit to New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Mobile has left me shaken. This is not the first hurricane-imposed devastation I have seen. Hurricanes and earthquakes have visited America before — as have floods, blizzards, ice storms, and tornadoes — but never before have I seen so much devastation brought to bear on the United States mainland as has been witnessed in the heart of Dixie this week. We have become accustomed to watching the news media over-play the potential for disaster days before a storm is due to strike, and we take it in stride. However, sometimes they deserve the benefit of the doubt, and this time was one of them.
With terrorist explosions taking place around the globe on a daily basis, anyone who has not considered what steps to take to protect themselves and others from injury or death in a terrorist attack needs to do so — now! It’s become apparent that, despite the extraordinary efforts of law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence communities from the Russian Steppe to Bali, Islamic terrorism has the world in its icy grip and is able to reach out at will to slaughter the innocent, leaving behind chaos and terror. Each day, the morning news delivers another tale about the injury and death of ordinary people, whose lives were taken in an unexpected blast detonated by terrorists. For those of us who are the targets of terrorist rage, the time to act to defend ourselves is now.
Despite the many new rules affecting how passengers fly in commercial aviation these days, I still love to fly. I will never get over the fact that if I can afford the price of the airline ticket, there is almost no place on this planet that I cannot reach within a day or two. My daughter is a graduate student in New Zealand, my son is graduating from law school next week in Oregon, and with a little patience I can be with them, and they with me, when the occasion calls for it. I am an unabashed fan of the Wright Brothers, for they have provided me access to a world that, as child growing up in the Bronx in 1940s and 50s, I could only dream of visiting. While at times I am as frustrated and outraged as any traveler over the new security conditions imposed us in a world preoccupied with terrorism, I never consider not traveling because of it.
The statistics regarding violence at school and other amateur sporting events have been cited regularly in the media — yet violence at those events continues unabated. A bench-clearing melee at a college football game on November 20, 2004, served as an exclamation point to the horrendous violence involving spectators and players at an NBA basketball game on November 19th. The television re-runs of the incident, and the action taken by the NBA against the offending players, speaks for itself. It is time for every parent, if not every prospective spectator of an organized athletic event, to consider the wisdom of attending contests that have become as much about the egos of the fans as about the players.