Hatred is like a spreading mold

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Wars on ideas like terrorism are always tough ones to win. War, by definition, has to have a winner through resolution and concessions by a loser. Therefore "war" is an unqualified moniker. No one will ever sign a declaration of surrender. No one will ever have a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York City to celebrate a victory in "The War on Terrorism."

"Control," "containment" or "abatement" would probably be more fitting names instead of "war" -- at least in terms of how we have defined it in the past. Whether it's war on terrorism or the war on drugs, racism, or crime -- the people who are waging the war can be winning, but they will never truly win.

Ideas, particularly when they are harmful or hateful, act like spores of a fungus. Like a slime mold, terrorism dries up, becoming more visible.

When you try to eradicate slime mold with a hard jet of water, it breaks apart, launching tiny airborne spores to spread that mold throughout the environment.

That's how terrorism is. It becomes manifest in actions like the ones on Sept. 11, when U.S. citizens were asked to choose their manner of dying while hundreds of feet in the air over the streets of New York in burning icons of our financial clout.

It crystallized the resentment and hatred that many of the world have for Americans and all of the things we value: freedom, justice and democracy. As soon as we attempt to break it apart, the ideas will invariably spread as long as one solitary spore or believer in the idea of terror still exists. It is an inextinguishable eyesore -- a flawless design of perpetual propagation.

By design, this war will never be truly over, its threat will always be real, its specter will always be felt. As long as the idea of terror as being a viable and effective form of forcing a country to alter its political, economic or social policy still exists, its horrific vices will always be employed.There is a distinct possibility, bordering on certainty, that the next horror will come in some act that will pale in comparison to what we witnessed on Sept. 11.

Terrorists have no cause for hesitation. Right now, methods of terror are being taught to Palestinian children who have just learned how to read.

This occurs throughout the Middle East by like-minded extremist regimes. This is happening now, not years ago. Now, even in the wake of this brazen act that is incorrectly termed "an act of war."

It was rather an act of violent aggression with chilling precision and guile -- and ultimately an act of cowardice, using our people as disposable pawns, all of them on our planes laden with fuel for California, to kill thousands, maim and burn hundreds more, on one day, when the weather was clear and perfect for flying, with our guard down for all of the country -- and the world -- to see, and they knew that it would be performed to near clockwork perfection.

The war doesn't end with bin Laden. It doesn't end with the Taliban. It doesn't even end with Iran, Afghanistan or Iraq. It doesn't even end with the last amorphous, fanatical regime on the face of this earth.

The sobering reality is that it simply doesn't, not anywhere, not with anyone, not tomorrow, not ever.

Tom Edwards is a writer living in Cape Girardeau.

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