…well, you probably know the rest.
This colorful turn of phrase was uttered within my earshot at a Boston bar following the Patriot’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Until this game the Bills had not beat the Pats for 15 straight games, a streak that began in 2003. The Bills are not a bad team this year, in fact they had the same undefeated record as New England entering the game. Instead, it was the expectation that the result this past Sunday would be the same as so many games before that added to the befuddlement of viewers across the region (in addition to Tom Brady throwing the same number of interceptions in one game–four–that he had thrown all last season). The same colorful, and upset, individual remarked that his “nephew had never known the Bills to beat the Patriots.”
What it says about my life that this episode inspired thoughts about homeland security I will consider in greater depth another time. Regardless, this animated man unintentionally uttered insightful homeland security ideas.
“My nephew has never known…” As a greater time elapses between events, the expectation that those events are possible generally decreases and the urgency to prepare dissipates. Perhaps because the original attack on the World Trade Center did not achieve a catastrophic result, the nation was strategically unprepared for 9/11. The same group not only carried out an attack in the U.S. mainland again (after several against various U.S. targets overseas), but they struck the same target. By strategically, I am not referring to the question of whether our intelligence services were properly aware of the threat or if our leaders were aggressive enough in their chosen courses of action. Instead, as a nation we were seemingly shocked by the attacks as if the threat had never manifested before that terrible day. Would the reaction to the attacks have been different if they occurred in 1994 or 1995 instead?
The “sun shining”: Sometimes your star player has a bad day and throws four interceptions. Sometimes as a fan, you underestimate your opponent because they weren’t so hot the year before but you haven’t bothered to analyze whether they improved over the off season. Sometimes, a plot will develop in a place intelligence services are not looking and by a group that has not appeared on anyone’s radar screen. Sometimes a less-then-catastrophic storm will cause the failure of levees generally believed to have been built to stricter guidelines. Sometimes a system designed to prevent blow-outs fails.
My point: the unexpected will occur and we can’t count on preventing, deterring, or mitigating all the worst case scenarios. Somehow in a time of fiscal and political constraint, room for catastrophic planning should be carved out of a system that rests on preparing for the expected. Following the next “unexpected” catastrophe, there will not be a chance for quick redemption on the following Sunday.