For the past two months we've been bombarded with the negative impact of the September 11 tragedy and the anthrax scare. We have experienced both anger and fear as the result of these events. But, perhaps there may be some good, or at least positive, things coming out of it all.
The first thing it did was to give us back our heroes. We had become cynical about heroes. If anyone did anything to qualify as a hero, the media and the cynics were quick to point out that person's lack of perfection. The deaths of the passengers on Flt 93, the police and the firefighters who were trying to help at the twin towers put an end to any such shallow behavior. It's possible to have a class of heroes again who aren't just entertainment or media creations.
These events have also helped us put our personal "troubles" in perspective. Those troubles haven't gone away, but now we can better sort them out and realize they are small potatoes compared to the troubles being faced by the September 11 survivors.
The anthrax scare shows how interconnected we are. If only three or four letters in the mail system can contaminate the whole northeast, it makes us aware of our interconnection nationally and our vulnerability if only a few more letters had been posted around the country. And the mail service is no longer the invisible presence it was just a few weeks ago.
As a nation and as a society we had been getting pretty inwardly focused that everything revolved around us nationally and personally. We did what was best for us and everyone else took a back seat. September 11 changed all that, at least temporarily.
Our nation's "go it alone" attitude that was so visible in our dismissal of the ABM treaty and the Kyoto environmental summit has been drastically modified. We found that we can't stand alone to fight international terrorism. We can't opt out of the Middle East either if we want to feel safer, if not safe, again.
Our previous benign neglect of internal national security has come to a permanent end. While the future presence of domestic security may not be considered a benefit from these events, it is something that needed to be increased from what it was. How pervasive or ominous it becomes will be up to us.
An increased capability in biotech defense is most desirable. Going back to the few letters that contaminated so much and frightened so many, we can see how vulnerable we were (are) to such attacks. I can't get over the chaos so few letters caused and am shocked at how vulnerable we would have been to a larger scale biological attack.
The World Trade Center tragedy was traumatic to us all but we on the west coast could at least feel, "It happened there and not here". There's no way to as easily dismiss the potential for the anthrax threat. We're all in this together from now on.
While one could quibble about how resources are being used, the upgrading of our security infrastructure is probably as important as the maintenance of the physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewer plants, water facilities, etc.) we are usually concerned with. It's money for security that wouldn't have ever been provided without the impetus from the September 11 and anthrax threats.
While the September events may have further hurt our national economy, perhaps they will also help us attitudinally get through the economic slowdown that seems to be upon us. I hope that there will be not only more concern shown for those directly put out of work by these events, but also more awareness that anyone out of work needs help. People who lose jobs in a downturn are also those least likely to have been able to "put something away" for hard times.
The silver lining may be thin in some places, but the cloud, like all clouds, will pass.