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A reader writes … By Merry Harris

October 06, 2001

In "Mein Kampf," Hitler wrote: "The one means that wins victory over reason: terror and force."

Since I was in seventh grade one of my pastimes has been writing horror stories — highly imaginative morality tales about evil imperiling good.

But never in my wildest imaginings did I conceive a horror story equal to that which took place in New York and at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Since then I have been horrified by the thought that one insane terrorist, believing himself to be directed by his God, could commit a totally irrational act that could plunge the world into World War III or Armageddon.

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I think it is at least half safe to say no horror story writer — Poe, Bierce, Lovecraft, James, King or any other, has ever conceived of one person having so much power for evil.

It now appears that American destiny is being adversely affected by the totally depraved.

The terrorists' strike on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon has been linked to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was not yet 20 when that attack occurred. I remember the radio newscasts that alerted our nation to the coming war as vividly as I remember the attack on Sept. 11.

The two events are alike in that they were "Days of Infamy."

But the Japanese attack was overt, a sneak attack, yes — but we knew who the enemy was, we didn't have to mobilize for war against a faceless enemy.

Radio was our electronic news medium in those days. We heard about the attack and World War II's battles, but we didn't sit in our living rooms, watching them in living gore, while they were in progress. Several days later we might see a small segment of war news in black and white in the local theatre.

TV has brought immediacy and the feeling we are there — firsthand observers of the event. This has traumatized the more sensitive of us. We are a nation in shock.

At first we may think the TV coverage a bit too much.

But sooner or later we will realize that the terrorist attacks' gruesome TV images have sickened other nations as they have ours.

Those nightmarish images may be a unifying force, making terrorism a common enemy of all nations.

Terrorists have manipulated us into mobilizing for war against a faceless enemy.

Actually, 19 of the enemy are already dead. Our task is to find the terrorists who created the plot to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

We must exterminate terrorism before it exterminates us.

How to do this I do not know. But we could start by forming a "think tank" of the world's greatest strategic thinkers. We are not alone in being targeted by terrorists. If they can nudge us into war, they will have succeeded with their mission here and will assault other countries.

The sad thing about any anonymous act is that it casts suspicion on the innocent and leaves the evil one free to commit other totally depraved acts. Our search for terrorists must not become a post-Salem witch hunt. We must not act irrationally, or "go galloping off in all directions," like Stephen Leacock's horse.

We must not let mad men's thinking imperil our nation or our world. We must not let terror and force win the victory over reason.

Just after I finished writing the above paragraphs, a newscaster reported that terrorists are learning to fly crop-duster planes for the purpose of spreading germ warfare.

Where will the insanity end?

How can we end it?

We cannot if we left the depredations of the terrorists drive us to irrational thinking and irresponsible actions.

MERRY HARRIS is an El Centro resident.

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