11/12/2001

 

Our Reaction to 9-11 Could Be Better

 

Now that it’s been a while since the events of 9/11 we have a chance to see how we’re dealing with it. In general I think we’re doing well, but there are some things I wish we were doing better.

 

First complaint is the economy. A couple weeks after the attack I talked to some local merchants and they told me business was very poor; a computer store, a bakery. I don’t get it. If one had planned on buying a computer in the next couple of weeks, then there’s a terrorist attack back East, so then you decide not to buy it? What’s the likelihood of an attack here? What is the likelihood (if everyone had gone about their business) that anyone around here would be losing their job? There was some cheerleading even early on from politicians about going on as usual, but too little too late. The whole first week was pretty much written off. That alone could give the economy a serious hit. If you lived in New York or were somehow affected I could see it; but if not then why change your spending or working routine?

 

Then there was the stock market turning down when it reopened. All the people who weren’t going to sell, but decided to because of the attack, were properly labeled unpatriotic.

 

I remember my first reaction when I heard about the attack. I’m not a soldier or a rescuer. But what I can do is go about my job in the best way I can. We needed each other to stick to our course more than ever.

 

The good side to this is it shows how much of our spending is excess. Perhaps with less spending we pay better attention to things that matter more; a small silver lining.

 

The second complaint is the language that’s developing around this: “Homeland Defense”, “evil doers”, “war on terrorism”. This is not an unpopular program the White House has to develop PR for. We don’t have to give an anti-terrorism campaign a warm fuzzy name to make it palatable. “Interior Defense”, “Domestic Defense” or some such would do fine. When Bush says we’ll defeat the “evil doers”, that they are; but again, a phrase chosen for a good sound bite. “Homeland Defense” and “evil doers” tends to make a cartoon out of a serious, involved issue. And this won’t be a war, but an endless battle like battling crime. It’s not something that’s ever “won”, rather something you minimize and keep your guard up against the next wave.

 

Third is the media obsession. I realize it’s their business and they live for these things they can make a frenzy out of, but in a case like this the endless rehashing of it just serves to enhance the terrorists’ effect. And those of us foolish enough to obsess on the media’s coverage for hours a day, and work ourselves into a stressed fright, are adding to the mistake. Pity the poor kids who live in homes that have terrorized themselves with an endless diet of this stuff.

 

By the way, Sam Stieger was wrong when he wrote in this paper that Congress should not have left their building for the Anthrax sweep. As I expressed about the economy I think we should go on as normal as possible. But Congress is part of our leadership, and this is a time when we especially need orderly running of the government. They are likely targets. They are in a public building. We wouldn’t fail to close any other public building where there was evidence of Anthrax. They pretty much have to get out of the way while the people in protective suits do their job of testing and cleanup. If Congress had stayed on in false bravado and some had ended up hospitalized or dead, that wouldn’t do much for morale or for orderly leadership. There’s a time for bravery. Even if they hadn’t wanted to leave, if it had been my call I would have asked them to leave for our sakes.

 

As I said at the top, I think we’re are doing well; these are some of the blemishes. I’ll get into the policies we’re using to address terrorism in the next of this every-other-Monday column.