The Beltway sniper is illuminating the great debate about rights versus security.
If you ask the people in the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. area, they would probably say they'd be okay with giving up some of their rights — granted it were temporary — if it led to the capture of the sniper.
If you ask someone — some of our emailers, let's say — from Kentucky, or Texas, or California, or Idaho... they probably would argue that rights are more important, but that's because their security is not as visibly threatened.
When the cops stop every car in a certain area, look inside, get people out, maybe even handcuff a few... is it a gross abridgement of personal liberties, or is it a prudent step in catching someone who goes out and kills an innocent stranger just to show the police he isn't kidding?
My sympathies are with the people who are living under this reign of terror. I would ask the people who are not to put themselves in those shoes when they cry out against police tactics, or new anti-terror laws, or 24/7 TV coverage.
Even if this isn't Al Qaeda, it is terror and the sniper is demonstrating that we have to come up with new ways of dealing with it.
Police tactics work on the usual brand of killer, because the usual kind makes mistakes that are predictable and lead to apprehension and arrest.
This has been way different. And what if it turns out that the sniper is a serial killer ordinaire, but one that gives the real terrorists some good ideas about how to paralyze a major city?
Can we go back to the good old days? Or are we going to have to take a deep breath and face a brave new world?
Just some thoughts.
That's My Word .
What do you think? We'd like to hear from you, so send us your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of your emails will be featured on the air or on our site.
• Looking for some previous My Word columns? Click here!