In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks, I didn’t immediately try to put words to paper because there is no way for me to put the sorrow and horror into an effective piece of descriptive writing. Simply put, I hurt.
Now that the shock is beginning to recede I find my mind going off on many tangents. I worry about what changes this will wreak on our system of government, our economy and our daily lives.
I worry about those innocent American citizens and resident aliens of Middle Eastern and Asian descent who are already suffering a backlash from the actions of a handful of fanatics. One dear friend of mine who is originally from Afghanistan left Georgia 3 years ago after years of torment created by hatred and prejudice here in Georgia. I worry about how her life has changed out there in the “freedom” of the West Coast.
I must preface all this with one piece of understanding that has allowed me to jump quicker past the shock than some others. During my years overseas I spent 7 months in Germany in the early 1980’s. As military dependents we had special license plates on our car that announced to anyone in viewing range that we were American.
This made us a target then. Terrorist were placing bombs in Americans’ cars then.
Terrorism is new only in that it has finally come home to us and in a bigger way than I certainly ever thought it might. We here in America have been very lucky it has taken this long to make its appearance.
One meeting I attended last Thursday and one news report last night helped my thoughts congeal into a definitive initial analysis finally last night. In that meeting of internet professionals and students the question was asked “What can we do as technology-savvy individuals and as an industry as a whole?”
One response that I seconded immediately was short and to the point – education. As a person that is coming to increasingly rely on technology for a livelihood, I have access to a wider base of technical information than the average person and, hopefully, a deeper understanding of its place and potential in modern society.
I believe I have an obligation to try to understand the complexity of all the issues before us now. I believe that I also have the obligation as an American to help educate my fellow citizens to these issues.
So, I want to make several specific points and recommendations to you.
Number 1, these acts were perpetrated by a small group of people. These people are not easy to find. Killing untold numbers of innocents in order to “hopefully” find these people is not in any way anything less than “legalized” terrorism. Bombing the h___ out of Afghanistan is very unlikely to result in “getting” the criminals. It is likely to kill many innocent citizens who now can’t even flee their homeland.
Number 2, these criminals may well look “alien” or “foreign” but most of the “foreigners” now in the US are not guilty. Any acts against these people is simply terrorism on a local scale. Getting rid of foreigners and immigrants and closing our borders will not prevent terrorism from happening. Not only that, but it is totally impractical and does not address the real issues.
Number 3, giving up any of our rights may well not result in stopping future terrorism. I for one am not willing to give up my fourth amendment (search and seizure) rights. Our system is set up to deal with these challenges. Any rights we forfeit now may well not be regained — ever. Such is the nature of any government.
In saying that, however, I want to make note that privacy in today’s world may well not exist. I never assume that my mail or email is secure. One interesting piece of news for you UGA employees-your email and your computer are not secure nor do you have any rights to privacy.
There is no firewall or protection from incursions from outside sources or hackers. Use of any state-sponsored email does not give you any rights to privacy. (This from a explicit statement from the head of UGA’s Information Management section.)
Making this the norm for everyone is the equivalent of allowing anyone to read the mail that arrives in your mail box or look at anything on your computer.
I know that our government needs to address the problems of airport security. I give them carte blanche to deal with that. My suggestions to that end include requiring the new equipment long needed by the airports for air traffic control. The present equipment is many years out of date and held together by baling wire and chewing gum.
I also believe that the government has an obligation to institute emergency networks for all air travel. Forget using 911 – installing hot buttons on every air traffic controller’s console across the nation with appropriate effective directions and an effective system of response is one step towards thwarting the plans of those willing to die for their “beliefs”.
Why these measures and not looking at the first moves already in place when the airports re-opened? It is obvious to me that what we saw last week is possibly not preventable. There are weapons made out of plastic and various other materials that cannot be detected. There are always ways around any security anywhere.
The government has an obligation to make our air travel safer. It has an obligation to mandate changes for the air industry. I believe the government has an obligation to step in to this private business sector because the airlines are not capable of effectively doing this on their own.
Obviously, many lifestyle changes will come our way in the next few years. The pendulum has started its swing. In order not to let that pendulum swing too irretrievably far, Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar, said it best last night: vigilance is the key.
We must be more aware of the possibilities life holds for us in this century and try to plan accordingly. The illusion of safety has been forever shredded. A harsh lesson–one to be learned from.
Some of these lessons produced by history have not been engraved into our legal system. Over 77,000 Japanese were incarcerated into our own “concentration camps” during World War II. This was never deemed by the courts as illegal. Any constitutional scholar and any reasonable human being will tell you that declaring a certain class of society or race of people to be “dangerous” goes against anything America stands for. But it happened.
There is no question in my mind that we must be vigilant to protect our rights and our freedoms so that America stays a place worth fighting for.