Authentic terror

In the early morning, as the television networks turned their cameras on the New York skyline, we watched unfold an almost familiar tale of terror. It was as if Hollywood had controlled reality and used special effects to show us the jet slamming into the World Trade Center.

We watched and asked, “Was that real?”

We have seen Harrison Ford as president, hijacked in his presidential jet; we have seen lower Manhattan cringe under martial law, with a grim Denzel Washington looking on; we have seen skyscrapers crash to the ground with New Yorkers screaming in terror, all of it created to scare us.

But no director rose out of his chair and yelled, “Cut!” And there is no director who will stop what is to unfold next. It is not a movie, it is our lives, and we know this Tuesday that we have entered into a new chapter in world history.

Now we are truly afraid of the reality to come.

Our fear today, as this paper goes to print, is of a trigger-happy administration. The moderate language of the Bush candidacy has been overtaken time and again by more extreme behavior. The possibility of an unprecedented acceleration of violence in the Middle East, one in which the United States is no longer diplomat, but an engaged participant—led by a ruler who is a rookie at foreign affairs and is governed by cowboy affectations—can only bring a new level of aggression to this still new century. We can only hope he doesn’t add to the tragedy by over-reacting.

In Sacramento, the Jewish Defense League is already calling for retribution even before the smoke clears, saying we must punish the countries responsible: “They have taken lives and much blood and now they must pay with their own.” Who are the “they” and how must they “pay”? With more violence and terrorism?

This type of angry reactionary response was expected. Anyone who saw the pictures of the crumbling buildings and the burned and bloody victims has got to cry out in anguish. We will all mourn together. But action without thought could lead to more crimes against humanity and could also lead to discrimination and possibly violence against peaceful Arab-Americans. We ask for calm and not a compounding of the terrorism.

All we can do now is watch it play out and hope that a measured response from our country, and its citizens, will become a reality.