Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 20, 2013

Attacks are nothing new to many but increasingly menacing to mass of modern American

Confusion seems to be the operative word — at least for many in my generation. When someone bombs a road race or flies an airplane into a building there are only a few words to describe it. Terrorism is one. There are others and few are fit to print in a family newspaper. This deadly, unconscionable menace continues to spread fear, pain, and injury all too often.

A generation ago, an Olympic massacre caused the world to pause. A recent magazine article referenced the shootings in Washington, D.C., which almost paralyzed the city for nearly three weeks in 2002. As the writer said, malls were deserted — ballfields were barren. People were afraid to leave their homes.

Was this foreign or domestic? More than 40 years ago, in cases such as bombings in Alabama which killed four innocent girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, we learned all too well about the destructive power of hate. Our own “modern” Civil Rights movement, punctuated by deaths including James Meredith, Martin Luther King, Viola Liuzzo, and others taught us that violence against each other is not confined or limited to any group.

Hate crosses all boundaries and extends right down to the pigmentation of one’s skin or the God one prays to. Tolerance is hard to come  by in this all-too-often frightening world of ours. A professor of mine said once in a lecture that more blood has been shed in the name of religion than for any other cause. I didn’t know what to say about that at the time and decades later still have not come up with an answer.

Hearts break for victims of the violence and abusive behavior. We send money and sometimes volunteer to assist those who have been hurt. Random acts of kindness make the world a better place but these moveable massacres coming at us from rifles or the sky or trash cans filled with cooking utensils are ripping away the silver lining that has long been part of the clouds hanging above the struggle for representative democracy.

Although my time on the planet is limited, I am more and more concerned about the victories being gained by the terrorists — whomever they are and wherever they come from. Our freedom is being taken away a piece at a time. We can’t carry backpacks in certain places. We have to put away our cell phones. We must empty our pockets to enter doors of public buildings. Access to landmarks is increasingly restricted.

Nobody trusts anybody anymore — or so it seems. I recently visited the Holocaust museum in Washington and was unable to hold back tears at one point. It was not only for the horrors inflicted on the Jews by the Nazis but the creeping fear in Germany that I am beginning to see in the United States.

Should we fly in an airplane? Do we really want to go to the “big” ball game? Are holiday fireworks and traditional celebrations good places to go now? Should citizens be allowed to buy guns?

Simply the fact that I can consider those questions is mind-boggling, and disturbing. Beginning with the McCarthy “witch hunts” of the 1950s (or perhaps with the Japanese internment camps and theft of their property beginning in 1942 in this country!) and continuing through the turbulent 1960s on into the modern era, we seem to be bent on a path of destruction. Our long-held freedoms are slip sliding away. I wonder just how the (possibly) well-intentioned Patriot Act following the World Trade Center disaster and more recent measures have quietly cost each of us.

Can you imagine what your grandchildren have to look forward to? At the present rate, they may not be allowed to leave their homes without swiping a card. Perhaps schools and colleges will be more like armed camps or maybe the students of tomorrow will “study” at home behind the protection of a computer screen. We already seem to be encouraging citizens to make purchases, pay bills, or do other chores either on the phone or on the computer. Perhaps that is to save money but in the years to come it may be that regular folks will no longer be allowed to make routine trips to the courthouse or the motor vehicle office.

Will we have the freedom to travel across state lines in our vehicles? I hope the unlawful search and seizure guarantees in our basic constitutional rights are never taken away.

For now, my family and I are not quite sure if we want to leave home and attempt to take a “vacation” this summer — or not.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

 

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