The Need for Calm

Balint Vazsonyi

The "need for calm" in the title is admonishment to myself in the first place. Those of us privileged to have access to the people of this great nation carry exceptional responsibility just now. I will try to be worthy.

For some time now, we have been telling ourselves that we can have it both ways, and this unrealistic approach has permeated most aspects of our national life. We pride ourselves in being even-handed, but ended up invariably favoring the political agenda of one side - a kind of "heads we win, tails you lose."

We are being lectured day and night about not blaming either Arabs or Moslems for the tragedy visited upon this nation, even though of the nineteen highjacker/mass-murderers nineteen were Arab Moslems. The cheering and dancing in the streets throughout the Arab world should be overlooked as well.

OK. We must not generalize. We must not think in terms of collective blame. Yet the very same people who say this, including the entire Democratic Party of the United States, have informed me that - though I was born in Hungary 1936, persecuted by Nazis at the age of 8 and by communists at the age of 13 - I will have to pay reparations to Oprah Winfrey.

Trying to remain calm.

We have been told that social justice requires letting everyone into this country, granting citizenship with no expectations of loyalty to America, and we are bigots if we dare to open our mouths.

OK. It's the Christian thing to share our good fortune with the widest possible range of other human beings. But then Christian impulses are to be suppressed in every other arena, and a whole battery of extra-special rights granted to everybody else. And if our new neighbors decide to kill us, tough luck. We, not they, were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Treating suspicious characters with suspicion, we are told, is something bigots do.

Trying to remain calm.

During recent years, flight attendants have been informing passengers before take-off that their primary job was to ensure the safety of passengers. They carried out this assignment through interminable explanations of smoking prohibitions, and of endless federal laws to punish anyone interfering with smoke detectors in the lavatories.

And we are continuing on that road. The new "safety" regulations would have made no difference whatsoever on September 11 and, as before, they will punish Susan Appleseed carrying her toddler strapped in a car seat, or Dotty with the purple hair en route to the next bingo hall. An actual friend of mine called Shirley had her tweezers confiscated. Our resources are once again wasted, our decent people once again harassed for naught. Experts tell us anything can be a weapon in the hands of a highjacker.

If so, then what gets on board is irrelevant. Who gets on board is all that matters. Like it or not, I doubt that one of those nineteen mass-murderers could have set foot in this land when I first arrived here in 1959. Anyone with half a brain should have wondered what they were doing in flight training schools, or five of them on airliner. You can be shocked and dismayed by what I am saying, or decide that our right to live trumps social justice.

Trying to remain calm. But we have to regain a free hand in defending ourselves. We have to get out of the mind set that has systematically prevented our famous instincts for self-preservation from being engaged. If not, turning the Arab desert into more of a desert is not going to accomplish much.

A word about deafening silences. We have yet to hear from America's black leaders, the Women's Movement, the Nation of Islam, Hollywood's otherwise loquacious lot.

The bottom line is that indeed we need to preserve all that is noble, humane and compassionate in America. But we also have to understand that if we do not succeed in preserving ourselves, we will not be here to preserve all that is noble, humane and compassionate in America.

It would be helpful if expressions of unequivocal solidarity with America would be received from Americans of Arab origin and Moslem faith. Alas, they can do that only if they forsake the fanatical hatred they inaccurately call "a political cause." It would be better still if the aforementioned communities would pledge to weed their own ranks of America's enemies.

All of us could then be a great deal more calm.