- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Here's hoping that the only fireworks we'll see on Independence Day are the "bombs bursting in air" over the National Mall.
If we are to believe the numerous and nebulous warnings of the FBI, terrorists are planning to rain on our Fourth of July parade and light up America's birthday cake with spectacular sparklers.
But too many of us are suffering "threat fatigue" from such unspecified threats, as the New York Times reports. "However, the political and cultural significance of this date warrants increased vigilance," wrote FBI officials in a secret message sent to local law enforcement officials.
For weeks, federal and local officials have been haggling with each other about the appropriate security measures for the July Fourth festivities on the Mall, which make up the country's most significant and symbolic celebration.
Plans to provide maximum security with minimal hassles have been a blockbuster challenge. But too much of a good thing can't be bad in this instance. Understandably, local leaders such as D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Anthony A. Williams argued strongly against erecting Fort Knox-like barriers around the Washington Monument for fear it would scare away tax-generating tourists.
But speaking of fear, Lt. Scott Fear, a U.S. Park Police spokesman said, in essence, not to let a few terrorists get the best of you. "We want to get the word out that the Mall is open" for Thursday's parade, concert and fireworks display, he said.
Now, how you get there may be another story. By subway? The Smithsonian Metro stop will be closed. By car? You can't drive anywhere near 15th, 17th or 23rd streets NW. By boat? Don't even think about dropping anchor or docking anywhere between the 14th Street and the Memorial bridges. By foot? It's your best bet, but remember there will be no access to the fortressed White House on barricaded Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
A recent survey released by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation contends that almost half of the respondents to their survey agreed with this statement: "We are living in dangerous times. If we need to relinquish some of our personal freedoms and privacies to protect our country, we should all be prepared to do that."
These freedom-loving folks, at least 53 percent of the 1,000 Americans asked, also said the FBI should be given greater power to monitor citizens.
Not to worry. You will be much obliged by the tighter security this year. When you are being scanned and searched as you are shoved through those doubled-gated, heavily armed checkpoints, try to remember that you are still standing on good old USA ground and not in Berlin circa 1944.
Ah, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Since September 11, we're a little less free but a lot braver.
We have to be. And we all have to be just a bit more alert and attentive to the things and people surrounding us. Still, we cannot let our fears of "potential threats" control our lives.
We can search, we can police, we can scan every entrance to warn of terror, but what can we do to guard against the bigger enemy within, which is fear itself? Try as they might, all the muscle and money government can muster cannot not come up with enough contingency plans to cover every scary scenario masterminded by all manner of terrorists, whether foreign or homegrown. And the $60 million expected to be allocated in anti-terrorism grants by the feds is only mildly reassuring.
As trite as it sounds, life holds no guarantees. It never did. Not before September 11 or after. Like the old folks say, we have to "keep on keeping on."
Despite the unprecedented events of the past year, each of us needs to get on with the business of living by making the most of life.
Fear will cripple you, totally immobilize you, rob you of a full and rich life if you allow yourself, your community, your country to be intimidated by someone's fear, hatred and insanity. To become a hostage in your own home is to imprison yourself in a living hell.
Besides, long-term Washingtonians should have learned to adjust to the frequent inconveniences that are part of their daily routines, living as they do in the nation's capital, where they must not only withstand threats of terror and war, but also the sudden security precautions brought on by myriad protesters, festivals and tourist attractions.
This Fourth of July celebration will undoubtedly be far from normal. Maybe it ought to be. Maybe we shouldn't rush to get back to "normal." Maybe the "normal," when we hurried here and there barely taking a breather and not taking time to appreciate our blessings, was not so good after all. Maybe "normal," when we appeared oblivious to the trials and tribulations of all around us, was not so good either.
And, just maybe, we can hope that this not-so-normal outpouring of support and sympathy amid tightened security will make us a better people and a better nation as we celebrate this country's 226th birthday.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide