Saturday, August 21, 2004
It's hard to miss the Olympics, now playing on a TV near you.
There is the requisite drama of the comeback and the amazement of the seemingly impossible feats of stregnth, speed and height. There are champions and underdogs, predictable outcomes and out of the blue heroics. The Olympics, are, afterall, the Olympics.
Well, maybe not.
Watching TV, it's hard to miss the empty seats in so many of the venues. People aren't coming out. The people as they say, have voted with their feet-- and their feet are remaining at home.
The question is, why?
The threat of terror, that's why. Despite a security expediture of a billion and half dollars, NATO involvment and unprecedented security, people are staying home. Hotels and restaurants in Athens are empty and shopkeepers and vendors of all kinds are crying the blues. It is rumored that the Greek Olympic Committee is giving away tickets for free, just to fill the stands.
People don't want to spend hours in line and then be subject to endless searches, risking being pulled aside and subject to closer inspection. They don't want to be told that even water bottles can't be brought into the sporting facilities. They may not say it, but they don't want to be potential terror statistics. In short, the spectator stands are empty because it's easier to stay home and watch the games on TV (and left unsaid, thay may feel a whole lot safer). They refuse to pay the Terror Tax.
It's not as if Greece is a geographically remote location. All of Europe is no more than a few hours away by air and no more than a few days away by car. On the face of it, Greece offers a terrific bargain for tourists and with the addition of the Olympic games, Greece should be an irresistable destination. Well, as it turns out, Greece is very resistable at the moment, though in truth, Greece isn't the problem.
It's the Terror Tax. That's not to say the Terror Tax is limited to Greece. We all pay.
Need to catch a flight? Better get to the airport early. Check your ticket-- you're paying a few extra bucks for security. Here in North Carolina, before you can walk away from the car dealsership with that shiny new toy, you're name will be checked against a terror watchlist. Called down to the IRS for an audit? Be prepared, the checking starts at the metal detector at the front door. The list goes on and on. Now we are told the terrorists want to disrupt our elections. Will those too, go the way of the Athens games, with even fewer voters participating?
The preamble to all this started at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Palestinian terrorists took it upon themselves to desecrate the games by murdering a few Israeli athletes. Oh well, we said, a sign of the times. Then of course, came more airliner hijackings and then the Achille Lauro, where a wheelchair bound American was thrown overboard. Needless to say, that Palestinian 'mastermind' is still revered as a celebrated hero in the land Arafatistan and beyond. The 9/11 terrorists are regarded as heroes in many Muslim countries. Is the connection that obscured?
We now find ourselves paying the Terror Tax in no small measure because of how we reacted-- or didn't react-- to terror in the past. We allowed the Olympics to be fertile ground for 'political' arm of terror because we didn't react to terror in the past. We allowed the 'political' arm of terror to justify the terror. We didn't say 'No' to terror and 'No' to the apologists for terror. We accepted them as equals at the table, and with true Euro/American sensibilities, we tried to 'talk' it through. With a less than full effort on the War on Terror, we're making headway, slowly. While our military is restrained from doing what needs to be done, many in our government are still trying to talk it through-- with the same players we've been talking to for years and with the same results.
Flash forward a few years. Osama gets the message and we're all paying for it, literally and figuratively. We're stuck with the consequences of our inactions. The Terror Tax is here to stay.
Societies, cultures and religions are all measured by what they contribute. No society is recognized for what it destroys. It is with that in mind, we need to deal with and answer our adversaries and their apologists.
If we don't deal with that reality, the Terror Tax will only grow.