Stand fast, stand free

An island woman dropped by our office the other day to talk about how the recent terrorist attacks had affected her.

She is by trade a pet caretaker – a dog-walker. What she said was that in the wake of the attacks, a lot of islanders are cancelling their vacations.

No dogs to walk, no business for the lady.

There has been a lot of that going on. While we haven’t done any systematic study, nor do we know anyone who has, we’ve been hearing anecdotal evidence about the impact of the attacks on the island economy.

Real estate deals have been cancelled, we know. That has meant lost earnings for Bainbridge agents, which is in turn money they’re not spending. It also means lost tax revenue to the city, which gets one-half of 1 percent of the value of all real estate sales as its share of the real estate excise tax.

Hunkering down in the face of a threat is a natural reaction. And it’s no doubt healthy to re-examine our priorities in times of great distress, and perhaps discover that there’s more to life than spending.

We wonder, though, if our caution is not overdone. With tightened airport security and everyone on the alert, we can be almost certain that flying is a whole lot safer today than it was three weeks ago.

Yet folks aren’t flying, and the domino effect is apparent. The airlines cut schedules and lay off workers, which means fewer airplanes are going to be necessary, which means Boeing layoffs, which in turn ripples through the Seattle and Bainbridge economies, ultimately affecting all of us.

And this, we think, is what terrorism is all about – creating a climate of fear and uncertainty that disrupts daily life.

When it comes to feelings of security, we 21st century Americans are victims of our own success.

Since the Cuban missile crisis, when Soviet premiere Khrushchev backed down from Kennedy’s naval blockade, there hasn’t been a credible threat to our physical security. We’ve come to think of that feeling of security – freedom from fear, if you will – as an entitlement, and as the natural order of the world.

But in fact, that pre-Sept. 11 state of complacency was the anomaly. For almost all of humanity during almost all of creation, risk has been a part of living – risk from disease, the elements, warfare, starvation or whatever.

We now face the difficult task of re-integrating risk into our daily existence, learning to abide if not embrace the realization that our safety is not assured.

It may not be an easy task, but it is, we think, the only really effective weapon at our disposal.

Terrorism has two aspects to it. The first is the act itself. And while we have faith that our national leaders are doing everything in their power to prevent any more atrocities from being committed against this country or others, we know there are no guarantees. The risk will never end entirely.

The second part of terrorism, though, is the reaction – how well we are able to continue functioning in the face of uncertainty. And that, thankfully, is something completely within our control.

It’s all well and good to talk about making the sacrifices necessary to defend our way of life. But the first line of defense is to not give up our way of life out of feelings of insecurity.

And while we have all been moved by the acts of heroism we’ve seen in New York and Washington, let’s not overlook the contributions we can make as individuals – by living our own lives confidently and courageously, right here on Bainbridge Island.

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