May 27, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 258
Memorial Day, 2002
Strolling Into The Jaws Of Terrorism
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 27--I took a pre-Memorial
Day walk yesterday into the Jaws of Terrorism. Instead
of finding the razor-sharp teeth of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency,
I discovered Terrorism's fangs had been rendered impotent by
Courage, Conviction and Right Action--the antidotes to Terrorism's
Some might think
charging to the Statue of Liberty, walking the Brooklyn Bridge
and going up 1,000 feet to the top of the Empire State Building
an act of stupidity in the face of Terrorist threats to attack
New York City's icons. Some might call me "stupid"
or "blind to my own safety," or simply write me off
as a brass showboater.
Such "armchair critics"
have a point: "Why take a risk? Why put yourself
in harm's way?"
The question I pose back is:
"Is the harm of hiding from Terrorists greater than the
potential harm of facing them eye-to-eye? Is the way to
drive a bully from your neighborhood to shrink from his threats,
or go belly-to-belly with him so he knows you're not afraid
of his shadow?"
Frankly, I didn't go on the trek
to test myself, as much as to test my belief that there were
countless hundreds and thousands of the "silent majority"
who believe that Vigilance is a far more powerful tool in the
battle against Terrorism than Complacency. I wanted to
meet these Citizens and Parents of Vigilance. I wanted
to know their names, take their pictures and talk to their children.
I wanted to salute the "unsung heroes of the war on Terrorism,"--average
citizens who refuse to be driven into states of Fear, or Intimidated
by the ongoing threats Terrorism's shadow casts upon our nation.
I wanted to ask the Courageous
why they were Courageous.
My journey was inspired by Mayor
Bloomberg. (picture on
left) Last week he shot angry words at Brooklyn
Borough President Marty Markowitz for canceling the 119th
birthday celebration of the Brooklyn Bridge. Markowitz
claimed he cancelled the festivities because the police wouldn’t
allow fireworks, and bolstered his decision behind uncorroborated
information that Terrorists threats were aimed at New York City’s
landmarks—The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State
Building and subway and train systems.
Bloomberg retaliated to Markowitz's
Complacency by chiding the decision. He said showing Fear
was exactly what the Terrorists wanted, and that America and
the citizens of New York City shouldn’t let Terrorism devalue
their lives and destroy or mar its celebrations or way of life.
To prove his own Vigilance, he went to visit the Statue of Liberty.
I agree with the Mayor wholeheartedly.
Anyone reading the VigilanceVoice's nearly 400,000 words
will confirm my anti-Terrorism strategy is to face the Bully
of Nine Eleven, not run from him or his shadow.
I continue to submit that Terrorism’s
goal is not to destroy structures or kill innocent people.
Unlike conventional war, Terrorists don't measure victories
by the number of enemy killed or "body count."
Instead, its victories are based on how tiny acts of Terror
(such as a threat) create viruses infecting its target society
with Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
Tactically, the more they disrupt
a society's common way of life, the bigger growth the size of
the stick they carry. Besides Fear, they also thrive
on creating dissent.
If they can turn the population
against its leadership, as they have by accusing the President
of the United States of keeping the September 11th attack a
"state secret," the more they jump for joy in their
primitive caves where they hide and plan more attacks.
Shaking the foundations of leadership automatically rattles
the citizen's sense of security. If the populace
questions its leaders ability to protect them from harm, Terrorism
breeds stronger by creating more Fear, more Intimidation and
more Complacency. Such dissent ultimately widens the vulnerability
gap between the citizens (children) of the state, and its leaders
(parents). While the parent and child are trying
to build trust, Terrorists continue feeding dissent through
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
Terrorists prey on the
belief that people of America are trained to blame others for
their lack of personal Vigilance. They believe the backbone
of the American citizen has turned soggy and has ossified so
its ability to stand up for itself as a whole composed of individuals
has been crippled by a lust for comfort, a hunger for the selfishness
of materialism over nationalism. In many cases,
they are deadly accurate.
Just watch, read or listen
to the news and you become convinced the President of
the United States is the Prime Suspect for Nine Eleven. The
finger-pointing in his direction barks loudly that he knew
an attack was imminent and let it happen just so he could become
a "war president," and that the current rash of threats
are nothing more than a political diversion to take the "heat
off" headlines promoting him as our Osama bin Laden ally.
A child overhearing the news
or discussions by his or her parents on this issue starts to
doubt the leadership of his or her country. Instead of
feeling someone is protecting him or her, the opposite feeling
creeps into the child's thought--"What if the President
and his team is really a Terrorist agent, acting in concert
with those bad people who hurt so many?" A
child's mind isn't mature yet. Doubt can become fact.
The child can quickly start to believe based on the finger-pointing
that the President, the military, all the institutions designed
to keep him or her safe, are conspiring to kill him, to maim
his parents, his friends. He starts to see leadership
as sharks, feeding on he blood of innocent people.
Nothing could please the Terrorists
more than the cannibalization of America's
confidence in its leadership. If Terrorism were
to write a scenario of victory, it would be that its actions
caused the disintegration not of the World Trade Center or Pentagon,
but the corrosion of confidence in the American public regarding
its leaders Vigilance as guardians of the country's safety.
And that is what is happening daily. The attacks
on the administration suggest and imply a willingness of the
country's highest level of leadership to sacrifice children
and their loved ones for their own selfish, political ends.
How stupid can America be to think
one set of people far above the average person's reach is responsible
for the security of a nation from Fear, Intimidation and Complacency?
How many attacks will it take for Americans
to learn that Terrorism is about Bullyism--it's not about troops
landing on our shores and fighting city-by-city to burn the
White House. It's about driving the stake of Fear in the
heart of America's societal security, to make one afraid to
leave his or her house for fear of being exposed to a Terrorist
suicide bomber, to keep people from visiting the Statue of Liberty,
from walking the Brooklyn Bridge, from going up to the top of
the Empire State Building.
I blame the Fourth Estate for the majority
of the problem. As I watch the news on television, I see Osama
bin Laden in the form of Tim Russert, or Dan Rather, or Peter
Jennings, laying out question after question about the "cover-up,"
and whether the President and his staff orchestrated this event
at the expense of American security.
I don't hear them shouting out the
need for Vigilance, or that the responsibility for fighting
Terrorism rests with individuals not government. On October
3, 2001, I published a call for the media to promote Vigilance,
and warned of its neglect to use its power as a Voice of the
to What Would Peter Zinger Do?). I asked
then for the media to be the Vigilance Watchdog not an agent
of Terrorism. I laid out a simple plan to
help remind the citizens of America who was ultimately responsible
for the security of this nation from Terrorism--and, it wasn't
America's moral, military and intelligence
systems are also under attack. Simultaneous to the assault
on the President, the FBI, CIA and Catholic Church are being
fired upon by bullets dipped in the acid of distrust, moral
corrosion, ethical violation, social disintegration. All
these attacks feed Terrorism's hunger to weaken the structure
of Western Civilization and watch it crumble from within as
the Twin Towers did. The Terrorists want us to eat
ourselves alive, and, we are dong that to their glee.
No one is telling the heads of America's 100 million households
they are responsible to thwart Terrorism. No one is shouting
Vigilance, or reversing the responsibility from government or
church to the parents. And, the children of this
nation are joining in. They are learning to blame others
for their abuse--others being "not their parents."
And parents are running from the responsibility of being the
Sentinel of Vigilance over their children, claiming they gave
up the protection of their children to the government or the
church. They are not saying: "I abandoned
my responsibility as a Parent of Vigilance and as a result,
my child now lives in fear. Therefore, I will assume
that responsibility and protect my child from any and all abuse--whether
it be Physical or Emotional."
But some parents are assuming that
role. Some parents are refusing to participate in the
finger pointing, are denying the Complacent attitude that government
or the church is liable for their child's well-being, or, that
anyone individual or any institution can do a better job than
they of teaching their children the Principles of Vigilance--how
to have the Courage to stand up to Fear, how to develop the
Conviction to not cower to the Intimidation of others or intuitions,
and how, most importantly, to take the Right Actions to face
Fear and Intimidation without becoming Complacent and hiding
or shirking from the shadows of Terrorism either of a Physical
or Emotional genre..
Yesterday, I walked into the Jaws
of Terrorism to see, touch, feel and listen to the Parents of
Vigilance--those Citizens of Vigilance who refuse to abdicate
their rights of leadership over their children.
It all comes down to parental
not governmental responsibility for the security of our nation
I believe that Terrorism
did not attack America's security on September 11, 2001.
I submit it has been a growing cancer for decades as we drift
farther and farther from our duty as Parents of Vigilance and
become Parents of Complacency. As we turn over more
and more responsibility to others for our children's welfare
we make them more vulnerable to Terrorism--the injection into
a child's state of mind where Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
are stronger than one's Courage, Conviction and ability to take
the Right Action..
Terrorism manifests itself in
two forms: physical and emotional.
Physical Terrorism is administered
by bullies. Osama bin Laden is one example.
The abusive husband or wife is another. Criminals
certainly fit easily in this category, as do child molesters,
rapists, murderers. Physical Terrorism however,
is primarily the outcrop of Emotional Terrorism.
Almost every criminal's history
includes flagrant acts of Terrorism imposed upon him or her
as a child by others. The moral and ethical values
of a criminal are usually twisted and perverted during his or
her childhood, resulting in a selfish outlook on life where
taking from others, or hurting others, becomes a way of revenging
the wrongs suffered.
But there is an more insidious
type of Terrorism that needs to be addressed.
It starts with a child's sense
of worth. This worth is either nourished or demeaned
by the child's parents, guardians or loved ones.
A parent who implies or infers
to a child that he or she isn't smart enough, rich enough, privileged
enough seeds Terrorism in the child.. If a parent hasn't
made a "Vow of Vigilance" and reaffirms it daily by
acting to protect the child
from Fear, Intimidation and Complacency, the child begins
to wonder if he or she is wanted, loved, respected or worthy.
If he or she concludes he or she is not, then the child turns
into itself. The child develops destructive Fears, increases
his or her ability to either Intimidate or be Intimidated
by, or resolves himself or herself to the Complacent attitude
he or she is "stuck" where he or she is at, and must
survive by sheer existence rather than by growing and taking
Parents who are so busy they cannot
vow to take the time to crawl into the mind of their child--to
ferret out his or her Fears, or nurture the child's Courage,
or help the child construct Convictions to enable him or her
to battle Intimidations the world hurls at us as a test of our
character and resolve-- tacitly creates a child of Terror.
When the child grows into an
adult, the Terror of his or her childhood glues itself to the
marrow of adult existence. When the child--now
an adult--looks into the mirror, rather than seeing a winner
(an evolving, powerful human being with unlimited potential)
the reflection produces flaws, defects. Focus zeroes
in on what her or she hasn't done, or how others have more and
better things, or how society has oppressed him or her, or how
fat or skinny he or she is compared to others, or how unpopular,
or underrated, or underpaid, or unloved, or unappreciated he
or she is compared to the rest of the world. Individuality
is lost to the Terrorism of being invalid, in part or whole.
So, the easy way out is to point fingers. To angrily protest
or smugly affirm that "if they had done this, this wouldn't
have happened." And the media feeds this fire
of finger pointing, sidestepping the real issue that each of
us is responsible to convert our Terrorism to Vigilance
Each of us is responsible to walk into the Jaws of Terrorism
and dull the teeth of the serpent.
The F-16's that fly over New York City
might be able to shoot down a Terrorist plane trying to attack
us again, but they can't bomb or blow up the Complacency, the
Fear and the Intimidation that cause us to accept--without protest--the
cancellation of the Brooklyn Bridge birthday ceremony, or to
accuse our President and government of failing to protect us
from Nine Eleven.
Like little Terrorist planes attacking
a child's Self Worth Towers, Fear, Intimidation and Complacency
keep us from acting Vigilantly. For so many, life becomes
a rut rather than a road to destiny, and the great danger of
a rut is that the difference between a rut and grave is only
Without a Vow of Vigilance, Complacency
is transmitted to our children. We can hear it ringing
loudly as people say or think: "It's your fault!"
"It's society's fault!" "It's the government's
fault!" There is an inverse proportional effect
between the number of times we blame others, and our own weakness
as a Parent of Vigilant. The more responsibility we deny,
the more fragile our security.
A Vigilant person doesn't point
a finger at anyone other than himself or herself.
Assuming personal responsibility for all parts of life is the
keynote of a Vigilant person. This doesn't mean a Vigilant
person lets the world walk over him or her. If he
or she doesn't agree with something, rather than point fingers
or carp about it, he or she takes Action. A Vigilant
person writes a letter of protest, or rallies others to change
from Citizens of Complacency to Citizens of Vigilance.
All actions are taken with the express belief that the lessons
being taught are for the benefit of the children, to let them
know they are safe, that their parents, grandparent, guardian
or loved ones will not sit quietly by and let the wrongs go
This takes Courage to change
one's attitude toward events and situations, especially one's
responsibility rather than tendency to blame others for its
outcome. It requires Conviction to not be Intimidated
by a sense of futility that one Voice is useless in the sea
of events, and challenges one to take the Right Action toward
offering a Vigilant--selfless rather than selfish--resolution.
call them cowards--shrink from such responsibility. They
believe taking action is far too onerous, futile and not their
responsibility. They turn their head, or deafen their ears to
counter-comment to Borough President Markowitz about canceling
the Brooklyn Bridge celebration didn't use the word "vigilance"
but his message was clear: "Don't show Fear!
Walk into the Jaws of Terrorism. Show the Terrorists and
our children and the world we cannot be intimidated."
But his warning was
too late. And I don't blame Mr. Markowitz for canceling
the birthday celebration. I blame the citizens of Brooklyn.
If I point any fingers, it's at the parents and grandparents
and uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces of the Brooklyn
Borough who sat in Complacent bogs, allowing a few "leaders"
to dictate social policy regarding Terrorism. That policy
Had the citizens
of Brooklyn been Vigilant, they would have stormed Markowitz's
office in protest. Hundreds of Mothers and Fathers of
Vigilance would have chanted and cried foul. They would
show their children and all those who sat Complacently that
they stood for Vigilance--that they were not afraid, or intimidated.
They would not have let Terrorism win the Battle Of The Brooklyn
Bridge by default.
That's why I chose yesterday
to walk into the Jaws of Terrorism. Mayor Bloomberg
set an example of Vigilance for me and Marty Markowitz and the
citizens of Brooklyn set one of Complacency.
So I visited the Statue
of Liberty, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, rode the subways, and
went to the top of the Empire State Building--all alleged targets
of Terrorism over this Memorial Day holiday.
During my journey
I met and interviewed Courageous people--husbands, wives, children,
students, parents, grandparents, employees, and asked them why
they were taking risks by visiting these monuments deemed to
be "a threat to their security."
The answer was all the
same--to fight Fear, to not be Intimidated, to show Action against
Complacency. Those Parents of Vigilance I
spoke with were adamant about teaching their children not to
be afraid of the Terrorist Bullies, and as Americans and citizens,
it was their job to stand up to them.
I ran into a group of 101 students
from Elkhorn High School, Elkhorn, Nebraska, which had been
planning their New York City trip prior to the events of September
11. Over the months following Nine Eleven, each student
and his or her parents decided to face Terrorism with Vigilance.
The group elected to employ Courage over Fear, chose Conviction
to replace Intimidation, and took Right Action to fight the
Complacent choice of canceling the trip..
In tomorrow's story, I
will share some of the pictures and comments people made to
me at each of the various locations about their choice to "walk
into the Jaws of Terrorism," and why that was so important
to them and their children.
But if you can't wait to hear
what they say, you can take the Pledge of Vigilance. You
can chose to get off the Complacency dime, and take a Vow of
And, perhaps the first Action you can
take is to write two letters. One to Mayor Bloomberg thanking
him for being Vigilant. And the other to Marty Markowitz,
telling him why you think canceling the Brooklyn Bridge birthday
is an act of Complacency.
But please, please, don't do
what the Terrorists want you to do--Nothing!
Happy Memorial Day.
May you also walk into the Jaws of Terrorism protected by the
Shield of Vigilance. (return
to May 28 story: Courage, Kids & The Statue of Liberty)
TO: May 26--A Walk Of Vigilance