(DEAN BARNETT HERE)
As you all know by now, a terrorist plot in England was foiled in the last 24 hours. The plan was to blow up something like a half dozen passenger planes, perhaps over American cities. The British authorities characterized the plot as an effort to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”
What a poignant choice of words that is. One of the most important conclusions of the 9/11 forensics was that 9/11 was partly caused by our lack of imagination. We used to go to the airport and the airline personnel verified that we had packed our own luggage and that we had never let it out of our possession. The notion that terrorists would execute a suicide mission had never penetrated our collective consciousness.
We apparently didn’t care to imagine what incredible damage such an attack would cause.
HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED from personal experience. As Soxblog readers know, I’m a 39 year old man with Cystic Fibrosis. For those of you not familiar with CF, 39 is pretty old for someone with the disease. I’m doing quite well now, but I’ve had some extremely rough patches and some very dark days in the not too distant past.
When you go through such times, the first instinct is to resist imagining the unimaginable. Human nature is to recoil from the worst; if there’s something that makes recoiling easy, it becomes all the more likely that you’ll choose to not face your unpleasant reality.
If you have a serious disease, you eventually wind up going one of two routes: One is that you confront your problems, deal with them in a hard-headed way and make peace with the hand you’ve been dealt. I call this dealing with your New Normal; the old normal was better, but the New Normal becomes your reality. It may be less than optimal, it may be downright dreadful, but it’s your new reality and you find a way to deal with it.
The other choice is to deny the situation. There are tons of ways to rationalize such a decision without using the pejorative term “denial.” You can defiantly say that you won’t let your condition rule your life. If you do, people will applaud your toughness. These are often the same people who always tell you how healthy you look, even when you look and feel like death warmed over.
So you live your life without accepting or dealing with your New Normal. And you reap terrible consequences.
AS FREE SOCIETIES, the Western democracies have a choice of whether or not face up to the existential challenge they face from Radical Islam. The lure of seeking an easy way out is almost irresistible. The siren song of sitting down and reasoning with the Hezbollahs and Ahmadenijads of the world is powerful. If we could just do something to convince ourselves that all is well and that there’s nothing to fear, life sure would be easier.
Just as is the case with an illness, there are a lot of people willing to tell us that our fears are overblown. If you want to believe that George W. Bush and the Patriot Act are the greatest threats to our way of life, you won’t have much trouble finding a professor on a nearby college campus to buttress your theory. If you want to think that there was nothing really going on in London to warrant any concern and all the news this morning is just Karl Rove’s response to Joe Lieberman’s defeat, you’ll easily locate a prominent blogger to offer his concurrence. (HT: Allah)
But it’s past time we face the facts and realize that this is our New Normal. It’s worse than the old normal, the one that we had before 9/11 when we felt completely safe even though we weren’t.
It’s time we stop having a sphere of things that are “unimaginable.” Let’s imagine airliners exploding over our cities. Let’s imagine a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv. Let’s imagine a mushroom cloud over New York.
Let’s imagine how such things might happen. And then let’s resolve to stop them.
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