The original Rip Van
Winkle went hunting one day in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and there he
fell asleep for twenty years. Can you imagine the changes that old Rip
discovered when he finally awoke after two decades of dozing? We, in America,
have been abruptly awoken from our dual dreams of prosperity and peace.
prosperity phase of our slumbers began in the early '90s. During this sleep,
personal fortunes were made, federal, state, and local governments amassed
surpluses, and the future glittered in multiple hues of gold. We thought that
the days of economic uncertainty, recessions, and depressions were gone for
good. We had finally learned how to manage the economy once and for all times,
and our economic futures and fortunes were calculated in double-digits-until we
recently awoke to reality.
phase of our slumbers started a couple years before the economic nodding off.
Our initial dozing began with the fall of the Berlin Wall. We slept well for
well over a decade stirring only momentarily for scattered attacks against
embassies, ships, buildings, and people. The evil empire, the USSR, had been
brought to its knees, and we basked in the dream of long-term peace and
tranquility-until 8:48am, September 11, 2001. On that dark day, we awoke to a
nightmare and the reality of four planes crashing and killing. What must we
learn as the Rip Van Winkle's of the 21st century?
There is much to be learned as Americans. For example, our
federal government has learned that something definitive must be done now to
stop worldwide terrorism. Unless we win this war, we will allow ourselves to
become victims in the future.
Our government needs also to wage a war against the causes of
terrorism. These recent acts weren't mindless acts-they were a well planned
part of a comprehensive war strategy. We must look at the reasons behind this
attack. There are many reasons for the recent tragic events, but two surface
immediately: our foreign policy especially in the Middle East and the widespread
poverty both there and in South Asia. Having recently returned from the Indian
Subcontinent, I saw firsthand the vast extent of abject poverty that affects
addition understanding the issue nationally, we need to enumerate and process
our personal learnings while Washington works on the war effort.
We need to realize that life isn't linear. The stock market and
our economy don't merely continue to move ahead with double-digit certainty. It
takes unexpected curves and detours. It sometimes repeats itself, and other
times moves in totally different directions. We need to factor that fact into
our view of reality or else we will be caught be surprise...still again.
We aren't given a guarantee at birth to live three score and ten
years. Only a handful of people knew on September 11, 2001 that that day would
be their last. The others, the innocent victims, all figured that they had time
to do what they had put off. Tragically, they were wrong. Not one of them can
now hug their kids, spouse, or friends having postponed it because of all the
pressures of life. Nor can any of them enjoy the changing colors of the trees
or listen to the laughter of children at play. We, the survivors of this
attack, need to learn that life is fleeting-all too fleeting sometimes. Enjoy
We need also to learn to live without our future filled with
paranoia. We can be vigilant about life, but we must avoid becoming paralyzed
by paranoia. If we give into the terror, then we too become living victims of
that attack. Be watchful, but don't become obsessed with fear.
We can also take a personal inventory of the way that we live our
lives. It is horrific that so many died that day. However, many Americans are
waging terrorism against themselves by smoking. Over 430,000 Americans die each
year directly related to their choice to smoke. We freely accept the deaths of
1200 each day from smoking without mobilizing against that death toll.
The second major cause of death in America is the result of poor
diet and the lack of daily exercise. This death rate isn't much behind that of
smoking when it comes to the numbers of Americans dying daily. While we cannot
do much as individuals to prevent a foreign terrorist striking at us, we do have
control over our lives if we choose to exercise it.
We need to wake up to life
and rub the sleep from our collective eyes and go about living life to the
fullest. Go boldly into the future and enjoy the gift of life.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on