The VigilanceVoice
Monday-- May 27, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 258

Memorial Day, 2002
Strolling Into The Jaws Of Terrorism
Cliff McKenzie
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 venom.
        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 people.  (link 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 the government.
     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 from Terrorism.
       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 risks.
     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 the depth.
     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 unchallenged.
      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.
        Complacent people--some 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 the roar.
         Mayor Bloomberg's 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 was cowardice.
        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 Vigilance.
     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)

G0 TO:  May 26--A Walk Of Vigilance

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