Beyond Sept. 11th

Here are some of Wylie Aitken’s thoughts on the September 11 attacks that were printed in Rick Reiff’s column in the Orange County Business Journal on October 1, 2001:

It was never in doubt that America, New York or Orange County would rise above the ashes and rubble of the World Trade Center. We can all pray that the terrible acts of September 11, 2001 unites the world as much if not more than it unites America. If we needed an example that isolationism in today’s world is unwise (as well as impossible) we need to look no further. If the civilized world needed to be told that terrorism (or any violence) in the name of patriotism, religion or any other excuse cannot be tolerated or could be viewed as someone else’s problem, we’ve had the ultimate wake-up call. No longer can we talk of AIDS as Africa’s problem, or have the Israel/Palestine tail wag the dog, or rationally suggest we ignore Northern Ireland or Kosovo.

One thing I fear is overreaction–not overreaction narrowly defined as retaliation, but more broadly defined to include all aspects of our lives here in America. In the political arena, do we not have reason to be concerned that bipartisanship, which is needed, will be redefined to encourage a rubber-stamping of all administration decisions? Will independent thinking and honest disagreement be redefined as a lack of patriotism or resolve? How many may choose to remain silent on major policy questions merely from fear of immediate political fallout? Who might be the new Joe McCarthy(s)? A Secretary of Home Security can be a great comfort or a major intrusion on our privacy.

We have a saying in the law that “bad facts and bad cases make bad law.” We can’t let the hoodlums of September 11 redefine our way of life in a way which encourages or tolerates racial profiling, feeds an existing paranoia re: immigrants and immigration, hinders equal education or unduly restricts civil rights, to give but a few examples. If airlines and insurance companies are down, what will be the agenda, hidden or otherwise, of leaders in those industries? The billions for the bailout of the airlines (many of whom were financially ill well before September 11) will radically alter other priorities, including education.

It would be naive to believe we will be automatically better, stronger or more united because of the events of September 11, or that our decisions will be wise. Will we capitalize on fear and distrust or will we be “great?” (The tenor of the President’s comments and outreach have been reassuring.)