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Responding to 9/11

Must global terrorism mean the end of Western Civilization and “One Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”?

I am a New Yorker. New York is my City. As a little boy I traveled the subways for a nickel to enjoy the wonders of the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, the Brooklyn Public Library, my stone friends Patience and Fortitude, the lions at the Public Library on 42nd Street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Central Park.

As a young man I walked the streets of New York City, ducking into subway tunnels to avoid the rain. I heard Dixieland in Greenwich Village and Modern Jazz on 52nd Street. I watched Lincoln Center and the World Trade Center being built just as my parents watched the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building top out during the Great Depression, and my grandparents from villages in Sicily and Italy marveled as the Woolworth Tower rose and the Flatiron Building filled the last narrow vacant lot in what was then “midtown.” All Americans can be proud of the New York City skyline. It is a statement about America and Americans striving ever onward and upward.

New York City is more than tall buildings and the home for many of the most cherished examples of American culture. It is the Melting Pot. It is the Gateway to America. It is a bold statement of the American Dream.

New York is the city that brought free public education to all and established the American public school system. New York is the city that made college educations available to all who could and would achieve regardless of their race, creed, color, national origin, social status or income.

New York is the city where men, women, and especially children of all races, colors, creeds, and national origin became Americans and are still becoming Americans! New York is the city that gives meaning to the welcome message on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

The attack on September 11th raised the question of whether or not our New York City skyline will continue to document and define the American Free Enterprise System—the vision of personal freedom and endless opportunity which began as a dream in the minds and hearts of the men and women who settled this country and who joined together first in communities, then in states, and then as, “We the People of the United States” to create a Constitution which assured fundamental rights to all. The Constitution of the United States is a charter unlike any ever seen in the course of human civilization.


The real target on 9/11

Today there is a well organized effort to destroy Western civilization and return the world to a time over a thousand years ago when feudalism and religious intolerance were the norm and the majority of people were serfs enslaved by feudal lords and kept in ignorance by clergy.

It is “Western” civilization that is under attack at this time by a dedicated monomaniacal community of individuals rooted in a fanatical aberrant element of Islamic tradition that even the prophet Mohammed railed against—a fanatical tradition that has appeared throughout history in many guises as fanatic homicidal zealots driven by an unshakeable belief in the righteousness of their cause commit murder and genocide in the name of their own personal God.

The assault on intellectual freedom and personal liberty—the essence of “Western” civilization—by these fanatical fundamentalists is justified as “God’s will” and “God’s work.”

The poet Phyllis McGinley said it all when she described the eternal way of religious wars, “…And each drew his sword on the side of the Lord”.


Western Civilization

It hasn’t been politically correct to talk about “Western” civilization in a favorable or approving sense for many years now because Western Civilization has been accused of being a male dominated, racist culture. So why do I keep talking about “Western” civilization?

Yet some of us may have to die to preserve that Western” civilization, which, with all its imperfections, all of its failures, all of is excesses, is still the only civilization based on intellectual freedom and personal liberty for all.

It is time now to recognize the United States is a global power and that for better or worse, the United States of America is the guardian of global security as well as a beneficiary of that global security.

Terrorists target individuals, they make war personal. Not only are terrorists willing to kill you and me, our family and friends, but they are committed to destroying our way of life, and they are well aware that our way of life depends upon communication, transportation and natural resources.


Protecting the American way of Western Civilization

The United States of America represents the culmination of western civilization as far as freedom of conscience and personal expression is concerned. What must we do now to protect ourselves and retain our personal freedom and liberty, the freedom of thought and association, that has been won at the cost of so many lives since our Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Considering the sorry history of war, violence, and general sociopathic behavior that has characterized the human species throughout recorded history, it seems that some kind of divine power must have been guiding the United States of America since that long hot summer in Philadelphia in 1776 when a group of brave Americans declared that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That great experiment in human liberty which began with the Declaration of Independence is being challenged by forces not interested in killing our people and taking our property—the usual declared objects of war—but intent instead on destroying our way of life and returning the world to the dark ages of the Eighth century.


What must we sacrifice for security?

September 11, 2001 made reasonable inference out of paranoia. There are indeed powerful forces seeking to destroy Western civilization and all of us who enjoy it and are a part of it along with it.

In the name of protecting ourselves from terrorists, must we establish a police state and give up the freedom and liberty that we hold so dear? What rights do we have to give up in the name of public safety and security of lives and property for ourselves, our families and our communities?


Privacy in communications

The most obvious victim in our pantheon of fundamental rights as Americans will be the right to privacy in our communications. We will just have to understand that everything we say on the phone, every fax we send, every e-mail, and yes, even every letter may be read or heard by someone other than the person to whom it is addressed.

Guard your tongue and guard your pen. Think before you speak and think even harder before you write. Stop dissembling. Stop lying. Stop cheating. Or stop communicating. Just live your life without doing anything you will be ashamed of later. Teach your children that lesson as well.


“Search and seizure,” “stop and frisk” will become less restricted

Expect that the Supreme Court of the United States of America will reverse a long line of precedents that have placed more and more restrictions on the right of law enforcement offices to search for and obtain evidence of the commission of a crime.

At the present time, substantial evidence of probable cause that a crime has been committed is necessary before a law enforcement officer can stop someone and merely ask for identification. The standard for stopping people and asking for identification is soon going to be mere suspicion and as long as the law enforcement officer is reasonably courteous, the courts are going to defer to the judgment of the law enforcement official.

Searches of vehicles and luggage are going to become routine and judges are going to be less demanding when a request is made for a search warrant that will involve entering a home and looking around.

The infamous “fruit of the poisoned tree” doctrine is doomed. Evidence of criminal activity obtained in a search for evidence of some other criminal activity is going to become admissible. The hide and seek game between lawbreakers and law enforcement officers is going to stop.


Personal mobility will be restricted

The mobility that has characterized American society in the past will be sharply curtailed. Strangers will be looked upon with suspicion in every community. Many of us will be trapped where we live at the present time because we will be uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, and the communities to which we might move will be uncomfortable with newcomers as well.


What are the alternatives to a police state?

Every individual in every community must become an extension of their uniformed services— their police department, their fire department, their emergency services units, and their sanitation services, whether paid or volunteer, public or private. Public safety and the prevention of disease and chemical contamination is going to become everyone’s personal job as it should be.


“everybody, anybody, somebody and nobody”

Remember the old story about everybody, anybody, somebody and nobody.
Once there was an important job to be done, and everybody was sure that somebody would do it. Anybody could do it, but nobody did it. Then everybody got angry because somebody should have done it but nobody did it. The job was never done because nobody asked anybody and nobody volunteered.

Each of us has to do what has to be done. We can sit around and do what many have done: “When in trouble or in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout.” Or, each of us can take action and do whatever we are personally able to do.