In their posts this week, Chris Bellavita and Mark Chubb have dealt with homeland security in its broadest context. Readership soared.
What is this homeland of which we speak? Is it a specific place and people bounded by time and space or is it a realm of political, economic, cultural, and spiritual creativity… America always becoming?
What is the security of which we speak? Is it a matter of strategy, intelligence, tactics, command and control or is true security more a matter of self-awareness, neighbors caring for neighbors, and good character?
My Wednesday and Thursday schedules have been totally upended by the approach of Earl. My homeland security colleagues are intent on doing all they can to protect specific places and people.
Over drinks last night an old friend from the counter-terrorism side of our enterprise vented his worst worries. He hoped the venting would help him feel better. It didn’t. Even under the soothing attention of good scotch and a sympathetic listener the worries remained too plausible and well beyond certain prevention.
While considered the yin and yang of homeland security, those trying to mitigate the harm of a hurricane and those trying to prevent a terrorist attack often share a common concern. They worry that if they cannot maintain sufficient control, all hell will break loose. They worry a really hard hit will unravel the last seemingly frail strands of a shared national narrative.
These committed professionals — of every ideological hue — consider the political, economic, religious, and other divisions of our homeland and they worry America is about to implode. The real enemy — or at least fundamental vulnerability– is Pogo’s “us”, an us that seems increasingly fractured and at each other’s throats.
I share the worry. I see evidence in the morning paper, cable news and on comments to this blog. I am sure the same evidence encourages our terrorist adversaries.
Tonight, though, my wife and I will be one of five couples meeting at the house of friends. Around the table will be a conservative Republican elected official and a liberal health care professional (married to each other), a rightist Navy veteran and a leftist school teacher, a traditionalist farmer, a couple of highly skilled but non-credentialed technologists (one very political, the other barely at all), a libertarian lawyer, an independent receptionist, and however you choose to describe me.
We have been parents together. We have attended church together. We have wildly different political and cultural perspectives. Yet we love and enjoy each other in part because of the diversity we encounter in one another.
Last Saturday after the rallies on the national mall I heard (but can’t find the report) of a group from the Beck rally encountering a group from the Sharpton rally. They began shouting “USA! USA! USA!”, to which the Sharpton rally participants responded, “USA! USA! USA!”. The two groups parted with thumbs up and laughs.
One of my favorite strategists, John Boyd, argues that our Orientation determines what we Observe and, therefore, how we Decide and Act. We should worry less and watch more, especially more carefully. In my direct experience with a wide range of Americans I almost always find thoughtful and generous people. If I begin by listening, they will also listen, and we each come away understanding more and appreciating one another. (As I re-read I am embarrassed by how trite this seems… yet it is radically counter-cultural as well.)
The evidence I see suggests that television cameras (and many blogs) attract a statistical over-abundance of egotistical, dismissive, and cynical folks who need to vent their worries, but would do better to pour a scotch and find a sympathetic listener. (Physician heal thyself.)
The hurricane is real. Many of the terrorist threats are real. The anger and division of our nation is real. Our shared love of country and for each other is also real. In each case, we can listen carefully, work with others to do what we can today, and together agree to do more tomorrow.
“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” (John Lennon)
For further consideration:
The Idea of Fraternity in America by Wilson Carey McWilliams
John Boyd and OODA from Fast Company