A 9/11 Essay
By Chad Olson
My uncle Gaylon’s birthday is September 11. He’s now 98 years old. Seventeen years ago he wrote the following essay:
“Today, 9/11/2001, is my birthday. It is the only unhappy one of the 81 logged and, I fear, I won’t be around long enough to see the end of the campaign against terrorism that was just launched. I expect any campaign to eradicate terrorism to stretch over generations. That’s why this morning I feel a compulsion to write down my thoughts while they’re still mine.
The wonderful openness and freedom for almost everyone to come and go in our country is about to end. Terrorism has caused gradual, but steady, erosion of our personal freedoms over the years but now, when the entire world realizes our vulnerability, we can expect increasing and more audacious incidents. If in a tiny country like Israel, where security measures are well in place, it is impossible to intercept one suicide bomber with a device strapped to his body from wandering into a crowded area and blowing up scores of innocent people, what are the chances in our vast country to secure bridges, freeways, buildings, as well as people, from becoming targets?
The “Act of War,” the “Attack on America” mentality is much too limited. Terrorism is an attack on humanity, on civilization.
Is it really true that the world recoils in horror? People who think this, I fear, don’t understand the love/hate of the United States that exists throughout the world. Although Palestinians celebrated openly in the streets of Nablus, people in London, Lima, and a thousand other cities and villages in this world were secretly pleased that the Yanks “got theirs.” In little pockets of our own country those who hate “the government,” “capitalism,” “globalism,” or “the Pentagon” must be rejoicing, too.
How do we “wage war” on these people? Are we prepared to clearly establish guilt before retaliating, or do we wink at Constitution guarantees? Will “citizen’s militias” attack “foreigners” on our streets?
I’ve been told that continual elimination of the terrorist leadership can reduce those groups to impotence. But this must be decisive, quick, and ongoing. Are the American people prepared for the long haul? Are our allies? Now we see the primary role leadership plays in human events.
I listened carefully to President Bush. He is no Franklin Roosevelt. I kept hoping he would say “today it is the Twin Towers, tomorrow it’s Big Ben and then the Eiffel tower, because this is an attack on civilization” but he didn’t. His vision is much too limited. I paid close attention to the leaders of Congress and, with the possible exception of Tom Daschle (who said what I felt with the conviction I felt), I didn’t see the kind of inspiring leadership required to keep the population focused on what must be done.
So what do we do? Close our borders? Round up the aliens? Infringe further on our freedoms? Use the military option against suspected terrorist groups and nations that harbor them? Are we mature enough to assure that those who are targeted are the responsible ones? Our arrogant ways contributed to what happened this morning. But even if the whole people realize this, repent, and change, can we put the genie back into the bottle now that our weakness has been exposed?
Is there a way to avoid the tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict where one side resorts to terrorism and the other responds with military power? Will we initiate a similar endless escalation where each incident fuels the next, but on a grander scale?
So what do we do? If we use the military solution are we prepared to go it alone, without allies, and possibly, in the face of worldwide disapproval? Or do we, like the Romans, “Create a desert and call it peace?”
11 Sept 2001
Gaylon Caldwell acquired his BA at Utah State College, MA at the University of Nebraska, PhD from Stanford University, and post-doctoral study at Yale University.
He was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University. He later worked as Executive Director of the Bi-national Cultural Center in Guatemala City and Lima, Peru and became the head of all 132 Bi-national Centers in Latin America. His last diplomatic position was in the U. S. Embassy in Mexico City, as Cultural Attaché. After retirement he became the head of Elbert Covell College, one of three liberal arts colleges at the University of the Pacific.
Gaylon and his wife Vickie now live in a retirement community in Northern California where he continues to be active socially and physically. He recently published (on Kindle) three novels that he wrote in the 70’s and 80’s.