Many years ago, enough years that allow me to write about this subject, Tony acting has department chair, hired a temporary professor. The man didn't meet expectations and at the end of his contract, he wasn't rehired.
The first letter the man wrote to Tony blamed my husband for not rehiring him. The letter was rash but still written in the parameters of reasonable. A second letter followed. This time, the letter included threats to my husband. Tony contacted campus security and they advised my husband to be careful, to lower the shades at night, and basically become a prisoner to the threats of an unhealthy man.
I saw the situation differently.
I, like most people, spent Tuesday morning, mourning for the chaos of irrational hate that drove humans to act inhuman. I dared to watch the immediate videos taken by the people who survived the very moment of a suicide bomb. It was so real, I could imagine being there--the day before we had stood at an airline counter, our luggage by our side, vulnerable in a sense to a terrorist who might have walked in, stood by our side and yelled his praises before ending his life and the lives of those around him--including mine and my husband's.
In the aftermath, most of our presidential candidates have responded with a knee-jerk plan, a cut and dry, absolute answer to combat terrorism, and in the aftermath, I have read nothing but criticism of their plans. I am absolutely against a move that would take us into another kind of war--the knee jerk reaction that took our troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, that led us to dispose of ruthless leaders, that opened the floodgates to the power of even greater despots and evil. Yet, the word proactive comes to mind.
Proactive is what I chose for my own family's war on terror.
I realized if this man who threatened my husband continued down his deranged path, the people who would suffer most would be the man's wife and me. If her husband injured my husband, she would be devastated, her life interrupted and flipped on its backside. Mine too.
I called her.
I laid it out very straight. This is what your husband is doing. If he acts on his threats, he will ruin your life, your family life, your childrens' lives. It will never be the same for you. If my husband is hurt or killed, my life will never be the same either. I don't want my life to be ruined. I don't want your life to be ruined. The end.
Two sober women hung up the phone that day. I acted, she acted, and our lives weren't ruined by the seed of senseless hate and blame.
I now had concrete meaning to what was previously and only a buzzword of the era: proactive.
The university police were aghast when they heard what I'd done. I shudder when I think of what could have happened had I followed their passive, hide-away, advice.
I wish the war on terror were as simple as a phone call--but the key isn't the phone call--it is in the word proactive--acting in a peaceful and powerful way with a strong desire for a solution and resolution. Perhaps terrorists are beyond the possibility of peaceful intervention and hope--but we are not. Some of the candidates' suggestions are peaceful and hopeful, but they require a proactive approach, and we need to act.
The man's wife realized the precarious situation, and she acted. She asked for help; she got her husband the help he needed, and a year or two later, she and her husband showed up for a faculty, alumni dinner. We didn't talk about the situation, but their presence, their conversation, the way her eyes met mine--we were both grateful to be present and in peaceful circumstances--with our husbands.