January 4, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)


As an Israeli who has lived his entire life in fear of terrorist attacks, I can say quite simply: Terror embitters life. It imposes a military mode of behavior on a person, places him in an unending state of stress.

David Grossman, Sept. 27, 2001

David Grossman, in a superb article (World Press Review, December, 2001, p.18), describes the effect of terrorists on the Israeli people. What he describes in Israel seems to be the direction in which our own country is headed , with guards and metal detectors at airports and schools. Are all of these precautions going to prevent terrorist attacks? I doubt it. El Al, Israel's airline, has a very tight security system. While El Al has never had a terrorist incident, there has been no end to the number of suicide bombings in Israel. This in spite of Ariel Sharon's ruthless tactics. If anything, it has gotten worse. George Bush's rhetoric and action is likely to have a similar lack of effect.

I am no stranger to fear. From my childhood in New York City to my stint as an infantry medic in W.W.II to now. I have been attacked, robbed, shot at, and had cancer. For those brief periods of my life, I have lived in fear. As soon as I could move to a place where I was not in constant danger, I did. Living in fear is not for me. I prefer a life of tranquillity, where the things that disturb me are not life threatening. Life is difficult enough without fear.

The only effect that I can see of putting armed National Guard troops in airports will be to make people more fearful. No one has said what they are supposed to do. I suspect that they are supposed to walk around the airport, put in their time and collect their paychecks. Improving the baggage screening system will make it a bit harder for a terrorist to do what he is going to do, but it cannot make it impossible.

As long as there are angry insane people bent on destruction, there is no way to prevent it any more than it is possible to avoid being struck by a meteor. It is possible to prevent some terrorist acts, but not all. Like Timothy McVeigh, they don't advertise their intentions. Terrorists are not the only hazard; we still have thieves; both the outright robbers and the white collar kind.

It might be possible to kill a number of Al Quaida terrorists and even most of the leaders, but never all. And even if it were possible, there will always be our own domestic brand of nut. That being the case, are we all supposed to go around in a constant state of fear?

Even without terrorists, life is a precarious proposition at best, and none of us are going to get out of it alive. So I say to all of those purveyors of fear, whether they be terrorists, the government or the media: I refuse to live my life in fear. I will take reasonable precautions to protect myself from a premature death and I will live my life without terror.

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