How do the threats of terrorist attack and war affect our sense of personal safety? How do we react to feelings of insecurity? This activity directs attention to the ways that we feel and express our sense of insecurity, and the ways that societies react to the loss of security.
Students will examine the nature of security, analyze the reactions to terrorism, and assess the media coverage of the campaign against terrorism. Students will write editorials expressing their opinions.
Better to be silent than out of step when Bush bangs the drum
An examination of what happens to free speech in the wake of a terrorist attack. The Independent.
The Centre for Democracy and Technology
"In recent years, communications technologies and the Internet have become the increasing focus of proposals – introduced in the name of fighting terrorism – that really end up only diminishing privacy."
"When the innocent are murdered, we all go into the dark with them."
A Muslim writer responds to the attack on the World Trade Center with the teachings of Islam. The Observer.
When we North Americans saw passenger jets slam into the World Trade Center towers, then watched those towers collapse, our sense of personal safety was shattered. Our feeling that terrorism and the violence of war belonged on the other side of the world disappeared. And as we watched the television footage of wives crying over lost husbands, brothers searching for missing sisters, and children holding up photos of their lost mothers and fathers, we began to understand the real meaning of terrorism.
We have also begun to see how things change when we experience fear. Airports become police zones. Nameless people attack mosques and Arab businesses. Angry letters in newspapers call for quick and broad retaliation. Governments ask for new powers in the name of national security.
1. What is Security?
It may be useful to begin with a discussion-starter that looks at the nature of security itself.
Listed below are a number of statements about security. Divide into groups, with one of the statements for each group. In each group, discuss:
- What the statement means
- What connections the quote has to the situation in the world after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
One person should take notes on the discussion.
(collected by Educators for Social Responsibility)
Most people want security in this world, not liberty.
To keep oneself safe does not mean to bury oneself.
The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.
--Henry Miller, Sunday After the War, 1944
Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Security is when I'm very much in love with somebody extraordinary who loves me back.
The quality or state of being secure: as a: freedom from danger: safety b: freedom from fear or anxiety c: freedom from the prospect of being laid off 2. a: something given, deposited, or pledged to make certain the full ownership (as a stock certificate or bond), or pledged to make certain the fulfillment of an obligation 3. a: something that secures: protection b: (1) measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape (2): an organization or department whose task is security.
--Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
During the cold war, peace and security tended to be defined simply in terms of military might or the balance of terror. Today, we have a greater appreciation for the non-military sources of conflict. We know that lasting peace requires a broader vision, encompassing education and literacy, health and nutrition, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We know that we cannot be secure amidst starvation. We cannot build peace without alleviating poverty. We cannot build freedom on foundations of injustice.
--Kofi Annan, General Secretary, United Nations
Not a gift of a cow, nor a gift of land, nor yet a gift of food, is so important as the gift of safety, which is declared to be the great gift among all gifts in the world.
--Panchatantra 5th Century
Security depends not so much upon how much you have as upon how much you can do without.
--Joseph Wood Krutch
Each group should read its quote (or write it on the chalkboard or overhead) and explain what they think it means and its relevance today. The rest of the class may join the discussion.
2. Forming Opinions
After this class discussion, students may begin to feel prepared to express opinions about the effects the terrorist attacks have had on personal security issues. Below are some topics for them to choose to research more fully, discuss among themselves, and write about in an editorial.
Reacting to Terror:
How have people reacted to the terrorist attacks? How are they expressing their grief, anger, fear, etc. in their actions and words? Which actions are healthy and positive, and which are negative, destructive, and counterproductive? How can and should we lessen the negative reactions and encourage the positive?
What changes are being made to tighten security and to catch terrorists as a result of the attacks? Which changes are sensible and useful, and are some over-reactive? Are governments taking new powers? How far should we allow governments to go in sacrificing citizens' individual freedoms in the cause of security?
Who to Believe?:
How are various media - newspapers, television, etc. - reporting on the campaign against terrorism? Is the reporting and commentary fair, balanced and accurate, or do you see examples of bias? In times of crisis, does the press also change its way of covering news? How can citizens decide what is truly happening in the world around them?
The Resource links in this lesson are some starting points for exploring opinions relating to these topics. Articles and Web sites are appearing and changing rapidly in response to the feeling of crisis. Students should read newspapers and newsmagazines, and pay critical attention to a variety of media to stay informed and to see how events are being represented.
The final product is an editorial about the issue the student has chosen. While the editorial should reflect the student's research, it should also express personal opinion. It may be useful to examine some editorials (or other opinion pieces) from newspapers as examples for the students.
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