Terrorism - What To Do?

P. Joseph Shumaker, Jr.

© Copyright 2003 by P. Joseph Shumaker, Jr.


Drawing of a pyramid with a treasure inside.

I’m one of the 5200 parties who have submitted proposals to the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition (WTCSMC) project. We are all still anxiously awaiting the announcement of the Stage One finalists. From here a few proposals will be chosen for further development. At the end of this second stage, one design will be picked and this design will then be implemented into the multi-purpose site as the heart of the remembrance of all five terrorism events surrounding the World Trade Center and the four events of 9/11/2001.

When I first came up with the concept I eventually submitted, it was all a great rush of excitement and energy. I was painting my new bathroom and was up on a ladder rolling the white cathedral ceiling when off in the other room I caught the radio news mentioning something about the contest. It was one of those moments that barely breaks through consciousness, but then the epiphany occurred…

I’m an inventor and product developer, and I have been trying for several years to license a particular invention of mine. In an instant it occurred to me that this would make a great new innovative memorial monument structure for the contest.

I jumped down off the ladder and headed straight to my PC. I googled the contest, and after several attempts with various key words, I located a web site with information about the contest. There, in the fine print, I read the heart-stopping news: submissions had to be received ‘before’ this very day. What a disappointment that I was only a few hours too late.

I went back to my ladder and back to my painting, but continued the fantasy of the application of my invention to the WTCSM. As the gears kept turning, the application continued to point to a great and wonderful use of the invention. What could I possibly do now? Was it meant to be this way? Is there something bad or ominous about this coincidence? No, I think it is meant to be. Perhaps I could get on some other registrant’s team.

After the first coat to my ceiling was completed I went back to the computer, this time seeking a contact number. I found one, but after five minutes of going around in circles within the call menus and finding no path to a real human I hung up. Then I noticed a FAX number listed at the web site. Maybe this will find the eyes of someone who can help this desperate man, I thought.

I drafted a very excited message and short story, dialed the number, listened for the tones, hit the Start button and hoped. This was about 9:00am. I went back to my bath to start on the walls with a little more peace of mind.

As I was watching the noon news and eating my sandwich, the phone rang. I hit the mute button on the TV remote and ran to my office, arriving just before that crucial fourth ring when chaos occurs between caller, receiver and answering machine. It was a woman who identified herself as Julia from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Someone had received my FAX and she was responding to it. It turns out that the web site had not accurately presented the contest registration deadline. It was 5:00pm this day -not ‘before’ this day. She gave me the URL of the official contest web site and told me to use the online registration form found there. Julia said as long as I was registered before 5:00pm that day that I should be all set.

For the next 28 days most of my energies and focus were with the WTCSMC project. At first it was a very daunting task. I knew nothing about the site or the contest rules. I had not taken the trip down to ground zero. And I had not really understood the televised pictures of the site I had been seeing since
9/11. Everything I needed, though, was conveniently organized on the competition web site -- rules, maps, site plan views, site elevations and site perspectives of Daniel Libeskind's winning overall site design. After a few days of studying all the information, I had a clear picture in my mind of the constraints I had to work with.

The days that followed included some project team-building effort- for I thought there was no way to do this on my own. But maybe the most critical issue was convincing my wife Mary that what I planned to do with my time for the next month would be worth our while. Without a very well-established plan and supporting ideas, my wife would see this as just another wild-idea project of her well-intentioned husband. After 11 years of very little financial success in product development, ‘people’ had begun to lose faith a little. But I had enough ammo this time and Mary viewed the project as worth our time.

The details of my design will remain a mystery within this story, mainly because the competition continues and I’m still in the running. What is important to share with you and is directly related to the premise of this story is my view throughout the development process of the issue of terrorism and the ongoing fight against it. How would I handle this issue within my design?

I did not think a lot about how to handle this issue at the time. It was clear to me that it was important to everyone to include it and that I should include aspects that would symbolize the ongoing efforts to fight it. My president has been tirelessly delivering the message that we must continue the fight and it only seems natural to be shoulder to shoulder with him on this issue. Or is it?

Months have passed now since my submission to the WTCSMC. The fight against terrorism in Iraq and around the world obviously is not going as planned by our nation’s leaders. We have now lost more soldiers to post war terrorist events than we lost during the run up to Baghdad. I’m personally quite worried about the future of this decision our country made…

The other day while on my third pass this fall of raking my yard, I had another epiphany--- We are never going to see the end of the terrorism. The terrorists cannot be beaten. Our continued fighting fuels their cause and anger. They actually seem to be beating us. Even the CIA reports are now indicating this. As long as we continue battling them they will continue terrorizing us. I have concluded that it will never stop as long as we fight, especially fighting them in their own homeland.

My thoughts continued--- And if this is not bad enough, we are about to build a monument and memorial site that might highlight this ongoing fight. This, I believe, is terrible. We cannot have a national or global monument site dedicated to a goal we can never achieve, a battle we can never win. It should do the opposite and be about something positive. It should be centered on something we can theoretically achieve. Still how do we handle this terrorism issue within the context of this memorial site? Is it possible to eliminate terrorism in our world, but through some other means than fighting it? If there is a way, then this is what the WTCSM needs to be centered around. Terrorism- What to do?

Can world peace and terrorism exist simultaneously? I say no. Eliminate one and then you are on the way to having the other. In my life, I have not done a lot of thinking about terrorism, but I have done a lot of thinking about world peace. Terrorism is this new age phenomenon it seems. Or the word in the context is new. Maybe it is just guerilla warfare. My observations and recommendations from this point forward in this story will consider the path to world peace and its requirement to address and eradicate terrorism.

Do you fully understand terrorism and why certain groups resort to it? I’m no expert, but I don’t think it takes an expert to see that terrorism works, and it works well in many instances. Terrorism breaks the rules of civilized combat and fighting. It is a method used when there is little else an opponent can do to draw attention to his cause. Because it uses surprise and often self-sacrifice, the threat of terrorism is often more useful than the execution of the terrorist act. Terror is only effective to the living and the survivors of an action. It brings about change via fear from the threat of striking anytime and in any place. The problem is anyone can use it at any time. It is crazy for me to imagine it can be defeated. Fighting terrorism only produces more reason for others to use it. It appears to me that it is becoming more and more popular as the attention-getter of choice.

What if rather than fighting terrorism we concentrated on understanding what it is that makes people use it? I argue that people use it because nothing else is working and it is a last resort to get the world to pay attention to the plight of the person or group. Can terrorism be reduced or eliminated by giving everyone a means to voice his or her cause? Probably not, because many causes include radical ideas that some groups are better than others and some should even be eliminated. A good example of this is those who think we should kill all terrorists regardless of their cause.

There is no way to get everyone to agree on everything, but what if we instead focused on getting everyone to agree on one or a few things. Maybe I would be less likely to want to eliminate you if I knew we had a few common goals. I’d bet we could come up with a whole list of things that we could agree on: Who really does not desire peace? Who wants to be hungry? Who wants their children to grow up in fear? Etc.

So let’s now focus on these things we can agree on. Is the secret to world peace and the eradication of terrorism somewhere down this avenue of thinking and understanding?

I’m going to jump now to some questions I have about my role as a United States citizen, as a Mainer, as a member of a community and family and as a human being in general. What am I here for and what exactly am I supposed to be doing with my life? What specifically am I supposed to be doing as a member of each of the example groups listed above? Let’s not even ask about what I’m supposed to be doing with regard to my religion. For herein lies one of the biggest problems we have in answering these other questions. We all know there is no agreement among groups on this issue. Religion has spawned fighting since its creation. Could this be the heart of our problem? Is it religion that prevents world peace?

Is there anything bigger than our religion to define our purpose and our obligations as human beings in this world? If there were, could we maybe all agree with this one set of rules or laws and place our religion below this with respect to importance and establishing life’s purpose? If you revisit the list above of things we could perhaps agree upon, you will note that no item includes a religious undertone. Maybe there can exist a higher set of rules or laws that do not reference religious ideals. I contend that we can establish a higher-order set of laws that we can all agree universally govern our lives and purpose in this world. Might this higher level set of laws and the understanding of them hold the key to world peace and the eradication of terrorism.

Perspective is everything in our world when considering and understanding any issue. I think any situation or event can be viewed as good or bad from different perspectives. This variable in view is another reason we all need this higher order of law from which to consider things. Once agreed to, then right and wrong can be determined relative to the higher law and disagreements diminish. One can see that if one’s religion is the highest law - and others do not agree with the particular religious views --- that there will be disagreement of what’s right and wrong from the most basic viewpoint. Again, this is why we need to find something higher than religion to establish law and purpose.

It would be great if we could locate within our universe a very simple phenomenon that controls everything else within the universe- something we could all agree upon and around which laws could be established. Does this already exist, and we just have not recognized it yet?

Over here… I think I’ve found it… Look- it is so simple and beautiful. Look…

Those of the science-based communities (including myself) say our universe started about 16 billion years ago, that it all started from a Big Bang event and has been expanding from this pinpoint ever since. Everything physical within, expanding away on a journey of unsure destination. Along the way in time and space we now have witnessed and understand that various forces are at battle to organize and to simultaneously disorganize all this matter and energy. We understand that stars form and organize their energies and forces, and then stars die and disorganize these same universal components. It happens on the galactic level and as well on the planetary level. Earth demonstrates these same organizational and disorganizational properties. We know life exists on Earth and we understand that it too is constantly battling organization and disorganization. Life evolved thought and the mental realm, and this too battles with these two opposing forces. Our thoughts evolved to be even more complex and the spiritual realm was created and this too has opposing elements. There are forces too on the emotional level that cross between the three realms of life and these too have opposing elements. Love and hate are perfect examples of this tri-realm life phenomenon. This affect the body, mind and soul and sometimes help us organize and better our lives and sometimes tear our lives apart.

It is very clear to me that everything in our universe has polar opposing forces, battling one another on this expanding journey. It seems to make perfect sense that we too are supposed to be battling with these same opposing forces: organization and disorganization. This, I conclude, is the highest order law of our universe, and this is where we can find all the answers we need to successfully continue on this journey.

I contend that our purpose is to strive for organization and to propagate humanity into the future on this journey of unknown destination. Along the way, disorganizational forces in nature and being will work to foil the mission and to confuse our purpose. Knowledge and understanding of universal truth, not our reality, help us better organize. These help us focus our energies and resources to move ahead on the journey. Lies and ignorance confuse the truth, help form our realities that appear to be truth and these are forces that disorganize us, waste time and resources, and stop the progression or even send us backward on the path.

I believe we live in a time of great untruth and total confusion about our mission and purpose. At least most of us are confused. Our world has evolved the technologies required to move things ahead. But without the common goals and understanding that we all have a common purpose, we are battling one another, disorganizing and wasting precious time and resources. We have teetered for decades on the edge of self-destruction. We have 10 minutes left according to the Doomsday Clock. Who knows- we may have wasted too much time and resources to move ahead any further. Is it really too late? Is the end of our journey now obvious and clear? Is this it?

We need to redirect energies and resources now before it is too late. We need to define a new mission for all of humanity, so everyone is aware of his or her individual importance and power and potential to help or to hurt the mission. In this age of terrorism by small groups and individuals it is clear how destructive even a single person can be. This power that each of us has is of great importance to fully understand. Used to disorganize and in the right way each of us has the power to greatly affect the mission. Fighting disorganization and evil and terrorism simply wastes resources and time that we should be putting toward our bigger and more important issue- How are we going to get ourselves off this planet before we run out of resources or we are vaporized when our sun enters its supernova phase?

I truly believe we have evolved into what we are today for a reason. Our final destination is not this planet and vaporization in a few more millennia. We are supposed to continue to develop technologies that will take us away from here and to the next place we can continue to thrive and propagate and learn. Though we are near the end of time here on earth, there is plenty of time left in the rest of the universe. And simple odds tell us there has to be other places in our universe that can further support us with resources we need to continue forward.

I argue that if we educate the world with these higher truths, we give the world this higher order set of laws, we define a clear mission statement and we redirect people’s energies at this mission, then we will begin the organizational process to move forward again on this journey. In time the disorganizational forces -- terrorism and fighting terrorism -- will be reduced. People, given the understanding and choice, will rally around this cause together as one group. As a single group with a common interest and goal, other bad things in life will diminish. Bad will never go away, mistakes will always be made, we will go down wrong paths and people will get hurt and will die, but we will learn and change and continue forward together.

Now how do we get all this started? This seems to always be the most difficult step in any new venture. If you can recall back at the beginning of this story, I have a proposal being considered for the WTCSMC. The jury considering the proposals has not made a final decision yet on the design and use of the site. Would it not be fitting that a world memorial site like this were the place where an idea like this would start and grow from? Would those who lost and gave their lives not be proud to be associated with something that could be a real step forward toward world peace? I think this site is a perfect place to start. Change does not come easy. It usually costs a lot and it takes lots of people to encourage the change. This concept requires your help.

If you have read this story to this point then I must have outlined something here that strikes a cord and/or makes some sort of sense to you.  We need to make the story better though.  It needs to be perfectly clear and unarguable.  I’m not a writer… I’m only a concept man.  Here is a draft of a concept.  Now edit it and make it better.  Then pass it on to others who you believe might support it.  Somehow we need to get this message and possible solution to those who can really do something with it.  Hopefully in time even the jurors of the WTCSMC will get to read it.

I truly believe the pieces outlined within this draft can effect change. What do you think? Let’s work on this and make it better and attempt to put things back on course. I really appreciate your time and I look forward to working on this further with you soon. Now let’s go create the rest of the story….

Contact Joseph

(Messages are forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher