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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When Fear, Terrorism & Earthquakes Strike...

by Silvia Uribe

Talking to my daughter, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School, I realized the effect that the struggles of our days have on our youth, which took me by surprise. She was talking about the Mexican news broadcast images of a terrorist bomb exploding in broad daylight in the middle of Mexico City, our hometown. Her expression was not the relaxed, smiley one that she usually has, and as the conversation progressed her eyes became watery; her breathing became fast, as if she had just come back from her afternoon run, and she kept looking at me in fear, waiting for a comforting answer to her question. She asked, "Where will we go if things become so dangerous here in the States due to terrorism." In her mind, she figured that if the situation would ever get really dangerous here, we could go to Mexico, where most of our family resides, to get away from a possible attack. Now, with this terrorist event, she felt not only fear for our family's safety, but also a sense of loss of what she perceived as "our safe heaven." She was about to start crying. Realization hit me then. Our youth live in constant fear, and we don't know it. The kind of fear that cripples minds, limits wills, and destroys the desire to go ahead and try to make dreams come true. What for, if sooner or later everything could be destroyed? Yes, in the U.S., fear and depression have taken over our youth; the future of our country, and we have inadvertently allowed it!

Even though I didn't know how to make her feel reassured, it was clear to me that she needed to gain some perspective on the issue, so I shared with her that for me, the word, the concept and the consequences of terrorism were way more familiar and less threatening. Having family also living in Spain, I grew up hearing about the ETA, a Basque terrorist organization formed in the late 50's which is still very active now. I grew up knowing that every so often the terrorists would attack; that the attack would almost always kill some people, and that those attacks would never become something constant. As a society, we have another word for constant terrorism, we call it war. Terrorism, in order to work as such, needs to have the surprise element on its side. So, no, I don't fear that it would make me move from my town, or that it would become so frequent that my plans for the future will be cut short, or that my children and one day my grandchildren would for sure become victims themselves. Having said this, I sadly admitted that no one is inoculated against a terrorist attack, and that anyone could become its victim. My daughter wanted to know more.

Most of the world has co-existed with terrorism for many years, even though some people, our youth included, may think that this is a new trend. From the first centuries A.D. with the Zealots of Judea, which the Romans knew as "sicarii" to our days, terrorism has always been present, causing instability and fear within the population. I did a little research on the known terrorist organizations active today. According to the CDI (Center for Defense Information) this is a list per country and number of terrorist organizations: Afghanistan (1), Algeria (2), Cambodia (1), Chile (1), Colombia (3), Egypt (2), Georgia (1), Greece (3), Honduras (1), India (1), Iraq (3), Israel (1), Japan (3), Lebanon (2), Northern Ireland (6), Occupied Territories (4), Pakistan (4), Peru (2), Phillippines (3), Rwanda (1), Sierra Leona (1), South Africa, Spain (2), Sri Lanka, Siria (2), Turkey (2), United States (1), Uzbekistan (1). Fifty four terrorist organizations altogether, some in existence for over fifty years and the world has been able to coexist with it, and fight it quite effectively.

I asked my daughter to compare the threat of terrorism to living in a seismic zone. Earthquakes are not under our control. We know that they may happen, but we don't know when, and we do our best to be prepared to respond when they hit our area. We also know they could be deadly, yet we conduct our lives every day in a normal fashion, and we make plans for the future, as if the possibilities of an earthquake were remote. I realize that this comparison is quite a simplistic way of looking at terrorism, but knowing that there is not a real solution that would end the threat, it may be a good way for us to cope with it, and still live a life without fear, and have hope for the future.

Our conversation ended as they usually do, when her phone rang and she took the call. Minutes later, with a smile again on her face she gave me a hug, and a kiss and said "Thank you mom, I'll be back soon."

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

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