Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2003

ISSUES@HAND
                       a message from the publisher

Everything to Lose

Janis Joplin had it right for the longest time, in my book anyway. When you had nothing left—no friends or family, no money in the wallet, not even a roof over your head—you still had freedom. Freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose. It was the throw-away, the left-over, the last thing you had to give up when you didn’t have anything else.

That viewpoint was sorely shaken in mid-September when the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was stalked by an unseen sniper who got his kicks by gunning down ordinary people in the usual course of their lives. The sniper (whom we now know to have been a dynamic duo of evil) hit very close to home. One shooting occurred in an area where a number of our employees live. Another right next to the grocery store where the 17-year-old son of our customer service manager works. A friend of mine had visited one of the gas stations just moments before a gentleman pumping gas was murdered there. 

Those who live in this area know what it was like. Those who don’t can imagine going outside to a window in their offices in the middle of the day and seeing no one—no cars, no people, nothing. Imagine parking lots full of workers sprinting from car to building in a zig-zag motion to lessen their chances of being a target. Imagine a mental time bomb ticking every time you are outside, almost waiting to hear a pop or feel a burn. You couldn’t even console yourself with the belief that “the odds are against anything happening.” The randomness of the attacks kept any pattern of time, place or victim from developing. So every venture outdoors brought risk.

For the first time, I really gained an appreciation of what it must be like to live in a war-torn country and to have true fear for your life every time you leave home. As a baby-boomer, I’d been spared all that. It made me think what all people in uniform—from the military to the police—go through. They must feel as if those uniforms carry targets on their back every second they wear them. As a woman, I’d been spared all that too.

Most of all, it made me think about freedom and how little I thought of it at all until it was gone, how much I missed it and wanted it back. 

It turns out Janis had it all wrong. Freedom’s not another word for nothing at all. It’s another word for everything left to lose.

As we begin the new year, I wish you all those freedoms you hold dear. I pray that our country’s leaders use wisdom to find the best ways to keep that freedom for us. And thank you for the opportunity to use the freedom of the press for our industry’s benefit. 
Happy New Year! 

 

Debra Levy


USG

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