An attack on us all

Terrorism must not lead to a closed society.
As a Pennsylvanian who has lived and worked in both Washington, DC and Manhattan, the unspeakable acts of terror yesterday have come as a triple whammy. But this act was more than a political statement, more than an assault on a government that we existing in the financial community in Asia can separate from our daily lives. This was an attack on the very ideas that underpin our professions, our ways of life, our philosophy. The modern, progressive and open world that marks liberal, cosmopolitan society has taken a hit.

This tragedy of course is first about the people who have been killed. I cannot wipe the image of an airliner slamming into the Twin Towers from my mind. Any one of us could have been on that plane, or heading to a meeting downtown. My own father walks to work by those buildings, and only by a fluke did he end up elsewhere at the time of the attack. Like all of our readers, I know people who work in the World Trade Center and Arlington, Virginia, and I am still trying to find out if they are alive. My heart and sorrow goes out to the victims, their friends and their family.

Beyond the simple human loss, the United States will face pressures to change. For us this means inconvenience in travel û not a small issue for jetsetters in our world, but one that I think everyone will accept and understand. But the broader question is one of degree. Anyone who has travelled to Israel knows what it means to have a society geared around the utmost security. Is this the kind of place that America, too, must become?

I hope not, because our global economy, which relies on the American engine, is not just about who has the most cars and computers. It is about openness. It is about tolerance. It is about the freedom to do what you like, within reason, with your time and capital. It is this set of liberal ideals, adopted from the European Enlightenment, that have made America an economic dynamo as well as a beacon of hope for so many people, and which have made everything that we do in our professional lives possible. So this terrorist attack is really against global capitalism and freedom.

This is a situation that does not appear to have a silver lining. It is a loss for us all, and the only reasonable response I can think of for America û outside of narrow military actions û is to rebuild the Twin Towers, maybe a little bit bigger, and go back to work. If we let this crime damage our open society, then it really will be a victory for the intolerant, the fanatical and the thuggish.