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Aphelion Editorial 052

October 2001

The Senior Editor's usual drivel about whatever...

by Dan L. Hollifield


Hello and welcome!

I don't quite know how to begin this editorial. Although I know what I want to say, its difficult to put unto words. I grieve with the families of the victims and I cheer the brave souls who gave their lives in the rescue attempts. When we get around to building the monument to honor the victims, we will have taken a giant step towards healing.

September 11th, 2001, the world witnessed a mass murder. Like many of you, no doubt, I was angry over this crime-- Even as I watched it unfold on TV. Within minutes of the first report on the radio station I was listening to, like many of you, I turned on the TV and CNN. In those first minutes, I found myself still thinking in terms of mechanical breakdown or even pilot error. But I was wrong. Tragically wrong. What I witnessed was nothing less than mass murder. I was among the first to cry for vengeance, to find the fiends responsible and rain fire and destruction down upon them. But vengeance, unlike resistance, really is futile. What I was really crying out for, twisted by anger though it was, was justice. This was no act of war, wars are fought by governments between each other with the consent of the governed. Afghanistan has not declared war on the US, but a bunch of gangsters living there has. There is a difference. But Americans seem to need to declare war on something to decide to change it. So be it, if it helps get the average American off the proverbial couch and out in the world helping his fellow man. It really gripes me that we only act this way after a disaster. Its as if we need to be shaken awake, to be jolted out of our consumer comfort, and forced to notice the rest of the world. Why does the sleeping giant need to be slapped awake?

These terrorists are more than a threat to the US, they are a threat to our global civilization. Its not just the US support of people these gangsters have a grudge against that motivates them. The US is so tied to the rest of the world that nothing that happens here can fail to have an effect somewhere else in the world. It was nice to see the Russians join hands with us right away. At least we didn't have to worry about nervous hands over nuke launching buttons. But the point is that our culture is rapidly becoming even more global. Its not confined to any one nation any longer. Businesses are multinational, the internet reaches further and further each day, travel is easier and cheaper... Ideas, information, goods, influence, all spread world-wide. So a threat to one is a threat to all, so to speak. Now I'm not saying that we need a world government, I'm saying that the 21st century culture that we share stretches world-wide. It subsumes nations. I'm pointing out the difference between a culture and a nation, I suppose. Terrorism is an old threat, a threat to all who choose to believe that people everywhere can live together in peace. Not just a threat to one nation, but a threat to civilization. They must be treated as criminals and brought to trial, not bombed out of existence. This is a crime, not a war. We must seek justice, not vengeance. Might for right, not might makes right. We Americans must not risk becoming the monster that our attacker has become.

And what of our home-grown terrorists? Is there any real difference between the man in a white sheet who kicks in the door of a black family's home in the southern US and the man in a brown sheet that crashes an airliner into a building the the northern US? Is the fact that the KKK hides behind Christianity any better than the way the Taliban hides behind Islam? Both twist an otherwise honorable faith into justification for murder and carnage. Shall America ignore the racists and hate-mongers that we've long suffered at home, just because the ones in the news right now are foreigners? Hate is hate, murder is murder. Let us not segregate the villains and target only the imported ones. The domestic vintage is just as unsavory. Don't forget them, don't ignore them. If America is going to clean up terrorism, let's throw the American ones in prison right beside the foreign terrorists.

September 11th, 2001 was a wake-up call to all civilized beings on Earth. We must learn, we must remember, we must honor the fallen, we must bring the murderers to justice, but above all we must not allow them to have died in vain. They gave their lives to warn we survivors of the threat to our civilization. We should not dishonor them by giving in to the human need for revenge. This is a clarion call to all nations, all faiths, all cultures to come to the common defence of our global community. A call to arms for some, a call to service for others, a call to donate time or money for yet others. We are all in danger, no matter what nation we live within, no matter what faith we may have. All must join together to preserve the future we all hold dear.

We in the US can never be willing to relax or diminish any of our constituitional rights, however. Rest assured that there will be those who will seek to impose restrictions on our freedoms, and they will tell us that it is for our own safety. Don't allow them to do so.

What can we look for here in the US in the next couple of years? There will be more guards everywhere, depend on it. I foresee a new high coming in the employment figures for private security companies. But there'll likely be a near-paranoid security check for each job. And all staff of all airports are going to be nervous, so all air travelers will have to get used to the idea of tighter security. But beware the anti-gun activists, they'll likely try to use this emergency to again attempt to dis-arm the general public. Oh, they'll rant about making the *Country* safe, and they'll quote their usual inflated, stacked statistics about how dangerous it is to actually own a gun... In other words, they don't trust you to possess the means to defend your self, your family members, your neighbors, your friends, the clerk and the two nuns at the corner store, when someone chooses to attempt a robbery... Or goes into a restaurant and takes hostages at gunpoint... Or kills your pilot and crashes the airliner you happen to be on into a building. OK, I'm exaggerating just a little to prove my point. But my argument is sound; someone will try this so be wary and don't let them succeed. Let me tell you why I feel this way, and maybe you'll better understand what may sound like sheer paranoia at the moment. Remember, this is a digression to start with, so if you are bored with firearms rights arguments you may as well scroll down for a couple of paragraphs or so. OK, so the serious-minded are still with me? Right... I was brought up in a rural community where the old traditions of families hunting and fishing together were still the norm. Before I was ten years old, I learned firearm safety always came first, the hunting second. By the time I was old enough to drive I was responsible enough to be allowed to own a gun, though I never wanted to do so. Many years later, I bought my first handgun because my house kept getting broken into and I was afraid I'd come home and surprise the thief and get shot for my trouble. That was almost twelve years ago that I started going armed whenever I left the house. Only once in all that time would I have conceivably needed that handgun- and it was locked up in the glove-box in my car at that moment. Except for that one instance, there has never been a need for me to draw any weapon on anyone for any reason. Indeed, after several years of carrying a handgun secretly, I applied for a handgun permit from the state police. I was granted the permit, which means that my fingerprints were taken and forwarded to the FBI, while my name and description was run through the state and local police databases. The FBI checked my fingerprints against their files and found I was who I said I was and that I was not wanted for any crime. So I got the permit to carry a concealed firearm in public. I found myself remembering Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man-- With great power comes great responsibility. To know when to use that power, how much and no more, is an awesome responsibility. It is something that everyone with a firearm must face.

OK, I can hear you thinking "another gun nut, some kind of delayed-shock psychosis...", right? Nah, I just got personal for a moment to illustrate a point. The constitutional right that gives us the freedom to keep and bear arms wasn't necessarily put there for me to tote a gun around. Or even for me to be able to hunt. In America, that right exists because our forefathers foresaw times when the government itself would not be able to provide protection for each individual. That we would need the means to defend ourselves in extreme emergency. And that we would be adult enough to recognise such times and act accordingly. So no, I'm not saying "go out and buy guns" but I am saying that as Americans, we can defeat terrorists when they strike if more of us chose to excersize our right to legally carry a weapon. As members of a world-wide community-- not just as Americans, we need to stand together against this mindless violence. Don't allow someone to edit here or there on your rights, even if you hate guns and don't want anyone to carry one. The point is that every member of a civilization may, at times, feel honor-bound to defend that civilization on a day to day basis. This is as easily the person next to you on the bus as it is the soldier out on the field. What does that mean? That freedom and justice and self-defence can still be counted on to stand for something important. That you can't trade safety for freedom, that you can't live in fear of terrorists, that you can't allow fear to chip away at your fundamental human rights. And that those rights are worth protecting, all the more so because they apply equally to those who do believe in them as those who don't.

OK, so what am I really saying? Terrorism is big international news now, but its really a old and dirty business, world-wide. That not just the obvious targets in the US are at risk right now, but in the future, potentially anyone, anywhere. And that we must all band together to better defend each other against random violence. And most of all, that justice is much more satisfying than revenge, though harder to obtain. That people in high-risk areas might wish to arm themselves. That American technology rise to the occasion and provide Air Marshals and Flight Crews (and someday even passengers!) better weapons, safer weapons, with which to defend airliners from hijackers, better ways to detect bombs, better screening at airports... We can do it. We don't have to turn America into an armed camp. But we don't have to render ourselves helpless, either. And above all else, we are not alone. The US is but one nation in many that stand for something that the terrorists want abolished, demolished. That is the basic human right to own your own life and make of it what you will.

This crime touches all nations, all people, everywhere. Act wisely, but act. That is all I can ask of you.

Thanks for your time.

Dan

THE END


2001 Dan L. Hollifield

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