We are just five weeks from the second anniversary of the day when Islamic terrorists split American history into two parts: before Sept. 11 and after Sept. 11. We have seen much change, and we have had to rethink many things that were once taken for granted.
In the early 1960s, planes were hijacked now and again and taken to Cuba. In the late '60s, those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause were lifting planes and making demands -- that is, when they weren't murdering Israeli athletes or blowing up cafes in Paris and other such places with the assistance of European leftists ever ready to talk themselves into lunatic plots and ideas about Third World revolution and the downfall of the West.
For a bit, we seemed to get over all that. There seemed to be a reduction in such violent acts, and the security measures taken at airports appeared to make skyjackings a rarity. But the events of Sept. 11 shattered the illusion that we were doing enough, that we had made ourselves safe.
On that unforgettable September morning in the fall of 2001, one year into the new millennium, we came to know what people feel when terrorism comes into their lives. As usual, being America, we got the biggest dose ever, the successful destruction of the twin towers by the same group that had tried to bring them down a few years earlier. Hijacked planes were used as weapons, and 3,000 people were murdered. Nineteen men, most of them from Saudi Arabia, had slaughtered their way into history.
Since then, we have been trying to make it harder -- if not impossible -- for such actions to take place again. I, for one, have advocated a 10-year moratorium on immigration from Islamic countries, primarily because, being a black American, I have no sentimental attachment to the idea of America's being an immigrant nation. Tell that one to the birds.
Immigration is not a right. It is a decision on the part of the country in which the foreigner wants to live.
Somehow, the American descendants of immigrants seem to get that confused at the very worst time and act as if a sensible restraint on one particular group was an attack on all.
We are now faced with the expensive demands of improving airline security. That, it seems to me, can be handled rather easily. I think it should be taken over by the military. In fact, those who enlist in the armed services should have the option of signing up for the homeland security effort as it pertains to travel, just as they now can volunteer for the paratroopers or Green Berets or other special units.
Potential terrorists would be much more likely to be frightened off -- or captured -- if armed and trained people were scanning the carry-on bags, checking identification, working with the dogs in the baggage department and riding on planes ready to take care of whatever business is at hand.
Using military personnel to guarantee the safety of air travel would be a savings, too. The level of armed forces pay scales is obviously much lower than that of civilian workers.
Airline unions would go through the roof, but the public would not. It would cause a bit of unfortunate pain, but we would all feel safer and, most importantly, would be safer.
Stanley Crouch's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.