Three hours ago, as the initial reports of the disasters in New York, the Pentagon and elsewhere were pouring in, a network news anchor made this telling comment: "We are going to have to re-evaluate some of our freedoms."
In addition to the horror of the events themselves, those words strike a deeper chill and raise frightening questions: Will the reaction of our government be based on founded evidence or on understandably strong emotion? Will the mistakes made in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, when officials were so quick to blame the attack on foreign terrorists, be repeated? Which freedoms will we need to "re-evaluate" and who will do the weighing and balancing?
In these early moments of grief, confusion, anger and helplessness, there's little we can say with any certainty. We can only hope that the "someone must pay" imperative will not lead the government and media to drag the "usual suspects" before us without proof of guilt. And that the outcome won't be a general distrust of one another and of the freedoms our civil liberties afford us.
In the coming days, we must together evaluate how our lives must change in response to the undoubted, continuing threat of terrorism. We surely will have to re-evaluate, and international cooperation will be required, not just to track terrorists, but to heal the injustices that spawn terrorist acts.
What, ultimately, can we do to foster peace? Right now, sharing our dismay at what's happened with the people in our lives--our families, neighbors and friends--is essential. Through this dialogue we must recommit ourselves to justice everywhere. It's the only real alternative to more bloodshed.