Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

December 3, 2012

Down to the Basics

By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun

— When the calendar gets closer to Dec. 7, I feel uneasy in my bones. That “day of infamy” marks a very dark spot in our history. All of us who came on the scene early enough to catch the spirit of World War II felt by the “greatest generation” described so well by Tom Brokaw in his book of that name, probably feel the same way I do. And our feeling is even more pronounced since the 11st of September, 2001.

If we thought the destruction of our ships and naval and other military support people back there on Pearl Harbor Day was a disaster, when we add to that the thousand of innocent civilians and military slaughtered in the attacks by terrorists in more recent times, we can hardly rest easy. How could such things happen here?

One thing that strikes us squarely between the eyes is that both events caught us by surprise. Someone sneaked up on our blind side and leveled a telling blow when we thought life was moving along at a rather ho-hum pace. What makes me feel shaky is the realization that it could have been a lot worse.

At present we are involved in the process of shutting the barn door after the horse has been stolen. Yet I guess that is better than just sitting around and letting the same thing happen again without even trying to put up a road block.

I don’t think I will ever feel really safe again. Even the heretofore fun of receiving mail has become a somewhat dubious experience when the most innocent-looking notes and parcels can bring forth a cloud of apprehension simply because they lack a return address.

Another thing that has been on my mind lately is the way that women are treated in many places in the world. I think back to the articles and books I have read about the long struggle that American women have had in past years to claim a place for themselves in the thick of things. Pearl Harbor ushered in an era in which women were needed to assist in the war effort. I have heard women in Dawson talk about jobs they had during the Second World War.

I have always admired reading about a retired colonel named Bettie Morden “who served throughout the 36-year history of the Women’s Army Corps.” Along with other WAC veterans, She maintained a museum for mementos of this group. One of the attractions of this new museum is “a colorful gallery portraying the scenes from all major U.S. conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Kosovo conflict.” A visitor will see everything from uniforms to “a Soviet-made machine gun belt that female MPs brought back from the 1983 U.S. invasion of Granada.”

Since I’m on the subject of conflicts at home and abroad, I need to say something about the Bill of Rights. All this problem with terrorists and conflicts spilling over onto U.S. soil from hot-beds overseas has put strain on our adherence to the Constitution and has also somewhat frayed our Bill of Rights around the edges. Terrorists seem to hit us right square in the middle of our pride. Just as we gloried in our economic success exemplified by the twin towers, we felt comfortable and secure in our rights as citizens. In fact, many of our citizens had, in their own minds, added to the actual list of rights things like having many of the luxuries pictured on television. Credit cards seemed to support this attitude.

The question arises as to whether we can maintain our rights at the level they were before the terrorist attacks. We can recall that many people in early times didn’t think we needed a Bill of Rights in the first place. They believed that the Constitution proper covered in general all our freedoms. Nevertheless, enough people insisted that the rights be spelled out and numbered. This list is something concrete to hold on to. From time to time, the courts throw in a new twist through interpretation, but we really don’t want to stray too far from the basics, do we?

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Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun