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Normalcy

12/12/01 12:00AM By Bill Seamans

President Bush has repeatedly urged us to behave normally and enjoy life---carry on as if nothing has happened, despite what happened on September eleven. I have the highest respect for the way President Bush and his close advisors are bearing the burden of what he has called the war against the evil of terrorism. But, no matter how hard I try the difficulty of behaving normally in an abnormal national emergency is slowly, slowly making me, and I suppose a lot of other people, feel an inner sense of discomfort that borders on guilt.

How can we remain normal when our president tells us that everything is okay but it isn't. We have sent the cream of our armed forces into harm s way in a far-off land to face death or suffer wounds. Mr. Bush says this war could last for years and so we worry about how it will affect the teenagers in our families. Will they eventually also be called to harm s way? This is not normal.

How can we remain normal, during this Christmas season, when we hear that we are officially in a recession and that more than a million persons lost their jobs in the last three months. How can a million families feel normal when their breadwinners have lost their jobs just before Christmas and while President Bush urges us to spend, spend, spend, shopping and travelling normally to save the economy.

How can we normally watch the weekend football games---with beer, popcorn, chips and salsa, after we have seen the tv scenes of some of our young soldiers returning from Afganistan in flag-covered coffins or on gurneys weighed with pain? President Bush says we should expect casualties---after all, we are at war. But how can we remain normal---they could be from our village or town where everybody is family in the New England Way. I doubt that their families watched football normally last weekend.

How can those of us who read the New York Times remain normal when we see the daily page of obits of those who perished in the Towers on September eleven. The Times will publish that heart-breaking page until all the victims are remembered. It could take more than a year. If you don t get the Times, I urge you to buy a copy and look at that page and then decide whether you can really feel normal.

How can I feel normal this Christmas when I know that Bethlehem, where as an ABC News correspondent in years past I covered joyous Christmas celebrations. Now Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity has been the scene of bloody gunfights between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants at the doorstep of the traditional birthplace of the baby Jesus and the message of peace and love. The Inn is now controlled by Hamas.

Now, how can we remain normal if we become so normal that we will forget that there is a war going on---even though President Bush in his daily photo-op comments says again and again "We will win!" Under our national emergency situation in which thousands of our fellow citizens have been murdered by terrorism, it would not be normal for President Bush to lull us into complacency, would it?

Then I suppose we can look toward our representatives in Congress as role models for normalcy as we watch them use this national security crisis as a cover for their normal partisan political wrangling even while suggesting that during these days of wartime crisis normal political dissent is unpatriotic.

And finally how, Mr. Bush, can I feel normal when Attorney General John Ashcroft might accuse me of giving aid to the terrorist enemy and call me a traitor for taking exception to a Presidential request that I feel normal.

This is Bill Seamans.

--Bill Seamans is an award-winning journalist and a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.
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