Clarity and Restraint

Responding to tragedy, we test our own elaborate standards

In our second week of shocked mourning, our nation is, in the words of author Raymond Carver, "Moving toward whatever ancient thing it is that works the chains and pulls us so relentlessly on."

As individuals, as parents, as communities, and as a nation we want to find the balance between over-reacting and under-reacting so astutely described last week by Hood River school superintendent Jerry Sessions.

We must stay informed and sensitized to the tragedy and its expanding effects, without succumbing to what psychologists warn is "vicarious traumatization" from too much exposure to images of destruction.

Throughout, the overriding debate rises again: What is the place of war in creating a world of peace? We have no answer to that, but as a nation we need to keep asking the question until the answer is certain.

The role of force versus the rule of law is the unresolved question that bridges the two Bush presidential administrations and their dominant crises -- Persian Gulf War in 1991 and terrorism in America in 2001.

We are 10 years on from the Gulf War and no closer to reconciling, as a nation, the issue of using force to stop enemies from hurting us.

President George Bush declared a "New World Order" when communism fell 10 years ago. We are all still coming to terms with the end of that old enemy; no one ever thought it possible, 20 years ago, that the Iron Curtain would end in our lifetime. We are no longer resigned to the old order.

Can it be that terrorists have created a new New World Order? The younger Bush is probably hesitant to use the phrase again; in any event, it could take us decades again to come to terms with the new, murky realities foisted upon us by those who practice terrorism.

The Cold War was marked, as much as anything, by a sense of restraint. If we are to face a new enemy, one far less distinct than the Soviets and their satellites, that degree of restraint is more vital than ever.

What we also lack now is the other thing that distinguished the Cold War: clarity. Meaning the Rule of Law must be allowed to be fully exhausted. Wheels are now in motion to find a way to bring Osama bin Laden out -- if not peacefully at least with the rounded cooperation from other parties sufficient to make his arrest less deadly.

In democracies, criminal suspects are brought to face charges with something less than legal certitude of the ability to prove guilt. Authorities build up a body of evidence they believe will convince a court of law that the defendant is guilty.

That's how the system works. We don't always like it but we are at a point in our nation's history where we need more than ever to demonstrate full respect for our own elaborate standards.

Osama bin Laden may be the toughest defendant to bring to court in the history of jurisprudence but every attempt must be made through legal channels, however protracted and cumbersome (two characterics of democracy), before other actions are taken.

Will vengeance be ours? Can we achieve vengeance in this New World Order? Vengeance lacks neither clarity nor restraint and, further, the new enemy is not afraid to die for his version of the proper order; he is happy to do so.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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