Burton on the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 42
October 18-24, 2001
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Not the Way It’s Supposed To Be

Life is something to be spent,
not to be saved.
— D. H. Lawrence.

In these times, for many, life has taken on a new meaning. For some, the way they live has been dramatically changed. There is permeating fear that comes with a sense of vulnerability.

Things have changed since Sept. 11, 2001, and not just in the cities of New York and Washington. Geographically, all is the same, but suddenly some folks hereabouts find they live too close to Washington — or even New York — for their own comfort and peace of mind.

Uneasiness is not restricted to those of the cities and their suburbs; it infects those of rural areas. Terrorism has changed our outlook on life.

Where will terrorists strike next? It’s on the minds of most Americans — and let’s face it, we all hope it won’t be near our homes or places of work. Or where we might be vacationing, be on a business trip or near loved ones.

The dreaded time has come when we are learning first-hand how people live and fear in Dublin, Palestine, Israel and so many other cities or whole countries whose names we can’t even pronounce, in far-flung locations on the globe upon which we live.

With heavy heart and with varying degrees of guilt, we think of the innocent people in Afghanistan. We realize that most play no role in the terrorist activities, that they, like us, want nothing more than a life without fear. They could also use food, shelter and a homeland whose soil is not littered with maiming or deadly land mines and other explosives waiting to be detonated.

In one day, our world changed. Our smugness, our very sense of security collapsed. Really, it matters not where we live. The next target of terrorists might not be in a big city such as those around us on the western shores of Chesapeake Bay.

That target could be a water supply in the flatlands of Nebraska or a bridge spanning the mighty Missouri or Mississippi. It could be a chemical attack. Or bio contamination at who knows where or blowing up dams to flood homes in sparsely populated states such as Idaho. Perhaps even Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River that holds back enough water to, in a flash, inundate Port Deposit, Havre de Grace, Lapidum and other small communities — not to mention creating ecological havoc on our Chesapeake Bay.

In no small way, we have come to realize how insignificant we are, how vulnerable we are; in fact how useless and helpless we are. Some consider all of us sitting ducks, sitting and waiting to learn where terrorists might strike next while hoping it won’t be near us or our loved ones.

Living on the Defensive
People react in various ways. For many it means living defensively. For them, gone are the carefree days when the only thing worrying them was what the stock market would do to their financial security or their retirement investments.

Some stock up on gas masks, or at least try to, actually resorting to bidding to get breathing protection from atmospheric contamination. Others load pantries with bottled water or food staples. Then there’s the run on the drug Cipro so effective against anthrax; some citizens will do virtually anything to get filled a prescription of it — just in case.

In my medicine chest I have 22 of the tablets. I had filled the prescription prior to Sept. 11 for an infection of the hand that required minor surgery. I was about to flush the leftovers the other day when wife Lois, who is no alarmist, suggested otherwise. Though it’s said a tablet a day is needed for 60 days to cope with anthrax, we could be buying time by saving the 22 leftover pills — just in case.

This is what we’re coming to. Living defensively. Like when in World War II, some people hoarded butter, meat, shoes, sugar, gasoline and other items including cigarettes and silk stockings, which at the time were either rationed or in short supply.

During the Cold War, some even dug shelters; others partitioned off a corner of their basements, then stocked them with provisions in the event of nuclear attack. Again, people were living defensively.

Even my Uncle Larry, who lived in Vermont, which was said the be the safest, at least the least likely place to be attacked, was filling Clorox bottles with water — just in case. The trick was to turn the empty bottle upside down, let the last few drops drop out, then without rinsing, fill the plastic jug with water. The residue of bleach would spare the water from turning bad.

Today, the possibility of war — as President George W. Bush rightfully calls it — coming closer to home, to us, appears more of a threat than in the days of WWII or the Cold War. We are fighting an elusive and unknown enemy.

Hell of a Way to Live
But can we spend our lives looking over our shoulders, whistling in the dark? To do so would only play into the hands of the terrorists. As D.H. Lawrence, my favorite author wrote, “life is to be spent, not saved.”

When my friends learn that I plan next month to fly to New England for a vacation, some don’t hesitate to advise I drive, go by train or, better still, stay home. They no longer want to fly — and they don’t even have within them my uneasiness about flying, not because of possible terrorist attacks, but because I am a fearful flyer as much as I have flown over the years.

Meanwhile, congress and the president are working to implement laws that many see as infringing on our constitutional rights, heretofore mostly associated with things like gun ownership or providing those arrested with their Miranda rights. It makes many of us cringe — until we realize that freedom isn’t free. Sometimes we have to give some of it up for a time to ensure that we keep the ball of wax.

It’s bewildering; it’s frustrating. It’s so much unlike the life we have become accustomed to for us here along the Chesapeake Bay, inhabited by patriotic Americans — but where Edgewater’s upscale South River Colony wants Janice Tippett to remove the tasteful illuminated wooden outline of the U.S. flag from in front of her home.

Our lives have changed. Some won’t fly, others don’t even want to travel, others hoard, still others don’t want to attend anything that draws a crowd big enough to tempt a terrorist. Some fear for their drinking water, others for the very air they breathe. Most everywhere around us there is fright to some degree or other.

It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, not in this great country. As we have no choice but make the best of it, think of the words of D.H. Lawrence. Better still is this aphorism: “he who is afraid to die is afraid to live.”

Let’s get on with living, support our country and its military, fly a flag — even at South River Colony — and play not into the hands of those who seek to terrorize us. Brighter days are coming. Enough said …

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly