There was a time when a community such as Lindsborg, Kan., would have fallen all over itself in delight about the pending visit of a celebrity such as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. But the glitter of visiting dignitaries these days has been diminished by modern concerns for the visitors' safety.
The central Kansas town certainly will benefit from the presence of Gorbachev for the Chess for Peace events, but authorities in Kansas have been forced to work hard to assure the security of the noted Russian.
"Like any good police work, you prepare for the worst and hope for the best," says Lindsborg police chief Tim Berggren. "We've had weekly meetings for well over a month. We'll be ready by the weekend."
Gorbachev is scheduled to spend tonight and Saturday night at a bed and breakfast in Lindsborg. He also will speak today at Kansas State University in Manhattan, and K-State people also face a security problem.
"We always need to be very careful with dignitaries of this caliber," says one Manhattan official. Such was always the case, but in today's climate of heightened dangers for any dignitaries in any community at any time, the headaches increase for security people and traffic-routers.
Gorbachev will, not surprisingly, bring his own security guard and will make a brief appearance at a parade. His exact plans are understandably vague: "I think they take the attitude that probably the fewer people who know what plans are, the better," said one official. "There's definitely no set format."
Nor could there be nowadays. There is no hiding place for anyone, especially someone with the background of a Gorbachev.
Long ago, there were problems of traffic, security and other details for big events, such as the Gorbachev visit, but armies of safety-conscious aides were not usually required. There was coverage, but nothing like that of today.
Along with the massive new costs of security for such occasions, there also is the underlying feeling by some of a violation of personal rights and that our society has become so much more violent and perilous.
Will we ever see that get any better?