The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
September 12, 2001 Wednesday, Home Edition
Americans left to fear unseen enemy;
BYLINE: JAMES C. COBB
SOURCE: For the Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Editorial; Pg. 23A
LENGTH: 368 words
On Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to forge "a world founded upon four essential freedoms," including "freedom from fear."
But our victory in World War II soon dissolved into a nuclear arms race fueled by the Cold War. The generation that spent portions of their childhoods practicing for direct nuclear hits on their elementary schools can hardly look back with much nostalgia on that era.
Yet, even as the Cold War ended and we breathed a collective sigh of relief at the diminished likelihood of a global nuclear holocaust, we were already slipping into a new era of fear and uncertainty, one in which the enemy could be internal, as well as external, and essentially invisible, one in which extravagant defense budgets and massive missile stockpiles count for less than the ruthless and calculated fanaticism of relatively small numbers of unseen and often unknown enemies.
Our inability to protect even the Pentagon and perhaps even the White House or the Capitol served chilling notice that, when all is said and done, a terrorist can get closer to President Bush, than the latter, for all his resources, can get to him. An unseen enemy can make not just the residents of New York or Washington afraid, but can implant that fear into the hearts of the rest of America as well.
This reality came through to me in a number of ways, including the cancellation of classes at the University of Georgia and the anxious investigation of a "suspicious" van parked near the federal building in Athens. However, it was local reaction here in Hart County that I found most enlightening. The mayor of Hartwell, a woman of Lebanese extraction and Episcopal faith, urged citizens to offer their prayers for the victims and their families "in their own tradition." To that end, churches in town and throughout the county opened their doors to the prayerful.
Yet, for all the sincere expressions of grief and compassion, I feel certain that explicitly or not, those prayers also embodied a personal plea for the freedom from fear that, despite our victories in World War II and the Cold War, seems more elusive now than it did when Roosevelt promised to pursue it 60 years ago.