If Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were writing today, perhaps he might update his classic poem, "Paul Revere's Ride":
Listen my children and you shall hear,
Of the terrorist threats both far and near.
In the year of our Lord two thousand and three,
Comes a new threat not only by land, but by air and by sea.
The rider Tom Ridge and the president, too,
Warn of coming disaster for me and for you
We'd use lanterns to hang if we just had enough
But the threats are so many we'd run out of stuff.
Now, instead of the lamps Revere said he would hang in Boston's Old North Church in April, 1775, to warn of the approaching British, we use color codes and are warned to be "alert."
Why is this happening to America? Didn't we recently free a sizable portion of the world from the grip of communism? Are not thousands of our young men buried at Normandy and the names of others carved on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington for paying the highest price and bearing the ultimate burden in the service of other people's freedom and humanity? Have we not transferred trillions of dollars in aid and trade to other nations, and would do so to those in the Middle East if they would live in peace with us and their neighbors?
What other nation rebuilds and reconciles with its enemies like the United States? Radical Islamists claim the United States oppresses Muslims around the world, but this is a clever lie to divert the attention of the oppressed from their real oppressors - political and religious dictators who wish to remain in power and have access to life's goodies, while denying the same to others in order to keep them under their control. They add to their oppression a vision of an angry, vengeful God who needs corrupt human beings to impose his will by force and to murder anyone who can be labeled an "infidel," which is to say everyone - even Muslims - who do not subscribe to their doctrine of serial assassinations, terrorism and the dehumanizing of women.
Some worry of a "wider war" if we attack Iraq. We are already in that wider war. The question is, will we recognize it now, or will we be forced to realize it later after more of us are killed? If a killer is coming after you, it's better to intercept him before he gets to your door.
This war will not be settled by diplomats or friendly persuasion. It will not be won with promises of aid. The people who hate us have been whipped into frenzy by Arab and Muslim "educators," editorial writers, cartoonists, political leaders and clergy whose venom is as poisonous to the mind and spirit as the ricin they are producing in clandestine labs to use against us.
How much more must we tolerate before we strike at the evil coming from abroad and root out the dangers among us? No more, says the Bush administration as it contemplates expansion of the USA Patriot Act to allow the government broad new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering and surveillance.
This may the most difficult war we have ever fought, because the front line is less on a foreign battlefield than it is in our will. For a few, no amount of dead Americans will be enough to warrant an all-out war abroad and resolving the problem at home. But for the vast majority, who may soon see - if there are more terrorist attacks - just how serious the threat to our way of life has become, we are going to have to rally ourselves as our ancestors did during the American Revolution.
As Longfellow described those times and the "spirit of alarm" conveyed by Paul Revere: "to every Middlesex village and farm/A cry of defiance, and not of fear."
Will the people "waken and listen to hear"? We are about to find out in this Code Orange (high condition) age in which we live.
(Cal Thomas hosts "After Hours" on Fox News Channel Saturdays at 11 p.m. ET. Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill. 60611. Readers may also leave e-mail at www.calthomas.com.)
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