Guest Column: What we need to do next |

Guest Column: What we need to do next

Most of us are still numb, still shocked, still mourning. Slowly our sadness is turning to a righteous anger. We are stunned and sickened at the images we have seen – the senseless attack on American soil, American lives and American dignity.

Our suffering is unfathomable, but our country is unified. However callous it feels, we all must now think about getting on with our lives. Necessity demands we do so.

The terrorist attacks aimed to tear the fabric of our society, to break the bonds that hold us together as Americans. This mission has failed. America is unified now more than ever. Seldom before seen acts of patriotism, heroism and faith have become commonplace on the evening news. In our own region, families hang Old Glory in their front yards and people stand in line for hours to donate blood. Churches, synagogues and mosques hold vigils, signaling their support for the United States and the victims. Schoolchildren empty their piggybanks and send toys to those who have lost parents in the attack.

We will not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear and anger. We cannot allow our communities to become divided. We must remember that we are all in this together. Our partners include thousands of Northern Californians who, because of the color of their skin or their religious traditions, must not be confused with the enemy. When we allow neighbor to be pitted against neighbor in this manner the terrorists win.

We are now embarking on a long-term war on terrorism. As President Bush made clear in his address to the nation, this will be a very different kind of war against a dispersed and elusive enemy. As you know, the United States Congress has already acted to give President Bush the tools he needs to fight back.

Indeed, the President asked for an initial $20 billion and Congress responded, unanimously, by giving him twice that amount. More will follow. Our resolve is focused: we will do whatever it takes to defend ourselves, and to defend freedom itself. We didn’t ask for a war, we didn’t start it, but we will wage it with an intensity and purpose that will stagger our foes.

Even as we combat this evil, even as we strike back at the fanatics who despise us for merely being Americans, our lives must go on.

Schools will remain open. Grocery stores will continue to have food on the shelves. Farmers will continue to work their fields. Fire crews will continue to battle blazes in our national forests. As President Bush said, business will continue, but never again will it be “business as usual.”

Those critical issues affecting the nation before the attack have not disappeared. As Congress returns to work, we will address issues of national security, including approaches to solving our energy crisis. While a mild summer brought relief to what may have resulted in months of rolling blackouts, a mild season is not a policy solution. And our water concerns have not decreased. Indeed, the water shortage still looms as an enormous problem for California.

My point is simply this, in the coming days you will likely hear or read my comments, and those of all our elected representatives regarding energy, water, farm families, health care, veterans issues, and a host of topics seemingly unrelated to the battle against terrorism. While national security concerns are at the top of our agenda, all Americans must strive for normalcy.

The battle will be complex, difficult, and sustained. We need to brace ourselves for the long haul. In addition to specific military action, it may take years of changes to aviation, intelligence and security policy. However long it takes, we are committed. Right now we must all get back to work. Like you, I too have a job to do.

Like you, I intend to do it.

Wally Herger is the U.S. Congressman for California’s 2nd District, including Nevada County.

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