The American people's greatness has never shone brighter than in this darkest hour. In the face of evil, the nation binds together in love, courage and self-sacrifice. Ordinary men and women have answered the call of duty and become heroes: the passengers of United Flight 93, the President and Congress, the soldiers at their posts, the police, firefighters and emergency medical workers of Washington and New York. Against a murderous enemy stand these heroes, living and dead, and the people they represent.
The great majority of civilians will never see the front lines, but we are all targets of an enemy that deliberately attacks the defenseless. We are all bound by duty to our role in this struggle. Following is a list of suggestions for how we can all contribute. These suggestions have been considered carefully and are offered humbly by non-experts. We invite reader comments and suggestions.
1. KNOW WHEN TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN, AND YOUR MOUTH SHUT. The attacks of September 11 have rightly been called an intelligence failure. The government is now bolstering America's espionage and counter-espionage capabilities. But the CIA, NSA and FBI can't be everywhere at all times-only the American people can.
There are enemies among us, conspiring to take more lives. Their secrecy is imperfect, however, and will not withstand the scrutiny of alert neighbors. If you notice any evidence of such conspiracy, if you see or hear any talk of further terrorism, report it immediately to the FBI at (866)483-5137.
As important as this alertness is knowing when to keep quiet. The vast undertaking by our military will at times be conspicuous to American citizens who live near bases and installations. No detail of these operations is so insignificant that it will not profit our enemies. If you see or hear of American military preparations or movement, keep it to yourself. Do not assume the news media are aware, do not assume our enemies are aware. As our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen prepare to risk their lives, they depend on our discretion. Loose lips still sink ships.
2. SPEAK UP TO THOSE WHO HATE US. Above the quieter voices of more than ninety percent of Americans, a vocal minority has exploited our suffering to further their radical agendas. They are the extremists, left and right, who offer comfort and support to our enemies by blaming the United States for its own victimization.
From the Socialist intelligentsia, quislings like Susan Sontag praise the courage of our attackers and revile American foreign policy as "directly responsible" for the deaths of September 11. What foreign policy? Supporting our allies, such as Israel, and opposing our enemies, such as Iraq.
From the Fundamentalist Christian Right, bastards like Jerry Falwell implicate God Himself in the crime, declaring He participated in the terror attacks by "removing his protection" from us. For what "sins?" Tolerating the presence of homosexuals and liberals; acting like Americans instead of like the Taliban.
These traitors are maggots in our wound. They create the impression that America can be influenced, politically or morally, by terror. This invites future attacks by those who wish to "influence" us further.
Freedom of speech is a defining American liberty. Vile persons like Sontag and Falwell must be allowed to speak, but the health of our nation lies in speaking back. Decent citizens of the United States, who blame the perpetrators of September 11 rather than the victims, must raise our voices in opposition to apologists.
This calumny should not be confused with legitimate political and social criticism; the logical weakness of their arguments, and the timing of their slander, distinguish Sontag and Falwell from the decent dissenters of a heterogeneous polity . It is no more appropriate to blame America now than to blame the victims of evil anywhere at any time; who would dare blame the Jews for the Holocaust, or tell Cambodian people to "take a hard look at themselves to understand why" the Khmer Rouge "hated them?" The same scum who blame women for rape.
3. OBEY THE LAWS. We who govern ourselves owe a particular responsibility to government now. The huge task of securing this country, with its vast population and commerce, is undermined by every criminal act. Jinx has ceased its unlawful trespassing activities for the duration of this war; though not odious or evil, the activities of urban exploration create the hazard of false alarms and potentially could divert police resources from serious matters. Obedience of just laws is not a private matter. Every crime undermines our safety by making harder the staggering task of law enforcement in wartime. The stakes could not be higher; terrorists may at this moment be planning to smuggle chemical, biological or nuclear weapons into our country. Those who continue to use or smuggle illegal drugs, those who violate our borders, those who rob, steal, kill or assault, those who pimp and embezzle must be placed on notice: Your selfishness endangers the safety of our people.
4. BIGOTRY IS TREASON. Every time an innocent Muslim or Arab is insulted, our enemies grow stronger. Those who target them may be American by birth but not by action. Nothing can be more satisfying to the fanatics who hate us than to see evidence of anti-Islamic sentiment in America. The terrorists' vicious lie, that we are an anti-Islamic nation, is at the very heart of their recruitment efforts. AMERICA IS AN ISLAMIC NATION, just as we are a Christian nation, a Jewish nation, a Humanist nation, a Hindu and a Buddhist nation. Those who oppose this oppose us.
5. FLY. The most basic act of patriotism in this time of fear is to take courage. It is time to return to the skies; we must not be cowed into rejecting the safest means of transportation ever devised. It is time to return to work. It is time, for those who have fled, to return to New York and Washington. Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Those who are willing to give up an essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." We will earn the freedom to move freely through our own country by doing so. We will rise above terror, as our countrymen did, in 1776, in 1865, in 1941. Then we will have won this war.