America is already in the midst of one of our most iconic seasons. Holiday gatherings are happening all across the country, as is massive travel by road, rail, and air. While this is a joyful time for most Americans and most non-American residents of this great country, it is unfortunately also an opportunity for those who hate America to attempt to do harm.
The threat levels from groups like the Islamic State (ISIS), and their radical ilk, is up. The abhorrent fringe Islamist ideology they peddle has sadly been accepted by far too many people for the U.S. authorities to ignore. Americans must be vigilant, if we are to be safe.
Too often the public is whipsawed between those leaders who say, “There is nothing to worry about!” or “Oh, my gosh, the sky is falling.” Added to these false positions are those who reflexively try to make immediate political points for their favorite issues whenever something does happen. The president’s immediate calls for gun control regardless of the validity to the specific case are a prime example of this.
That is why it is so refreshing to see a high-ranking government official, in this case the top cop, FBI Director James Comey, say something so correct and sensible. On Dec. 16, the director sent out a personal message to his entire organization, the men and women who are the lead for protecting America against terrorism domestically. Everyone in America should read it. It is placed here in its entirety.
Subject: Message from Director Comey
During a time of year that is usually filled with good cheer, the American people are feeling a significant amount of anxiety. Because I believe they rightly view the FBI as a competent and independent force in the life of our country, I have been doing more public speaking about our work than I might normally. My goal is to explain our work, and urge them not to let fear become disabling, but to instead channel it into something healthy – an awareness of our surroundings.
When I first became director, my children were each given a copy of the book, “The Gift of Fear,” which teaches the channeling of instinctual fear into awareness. My family learned there are four possible states of existence: Red (you are in a fight for your life); Orange (you are preparing to fight); Yellow (you are keenly aware of your surroundings); and White (you have your headphones on listening to music and are texting on a lonely subway platform late at night). It is impossible to live life in a prolonged state of Red or Orange because the stress level would destroy you. Most people instead live in White, moving through parking lots or restaurants unaware of what’s happening around them. Yellow is a life of balance – acknowledgement that there is evil around us, but with awareness, not disabling fear.
This holiday season you will have many opportunities to represent us to the American people, in all kinds of conversations. Friends and relatives will ask you what’s going on and whether they should be afraid. They should not be afraid. ISIL and other terrorist groups do not pose an existential threat to America; our great country is too big and too good. Instead, terrorists hope to kill, or inspire others to kill, in order to induce a crippling fear. These savages actually believe they can significantly damage our country and our economy through fear. They cannot and they will not.
The people of the FBI work every day to find and stop the killers. We have stopped many this year. Unfortunately, the nature of the threat is such that we simply can’t see it all, and so we can’t stop it all. Because the potential killers are hard to see, we depend upon people telling us when they see something concerning; we depend upon people living in Yellow, not White.
And part of enlisting that help is the trust we have earned – and must keep – with Americans of all backgrounds. I have long believed that the enduring power of this country lies in the talent and character of the people we attract. I am so lucky that my ancestors came here. A whole lot of folks back in the day weren’t too excited to have the Irish joining the American family but they made it, and in the process made America better, as have countless other groups. The FBI’s connection to all Americans is vital to our success. Thank you for maintaining it.
However you celebrate this time of year, I hope you carve out the time to treasure your family and friends, hoist a favorite beverage, and maybe laugh until you can’t breathe. You have been working very, very hard, doing tremendous good across the land and around the world. America often asks you to sprint a marathon. But if we are to keep protecting her so well, you must take a break from time to time and step away from the work.
As for me, this Christmas my family is finally living in one place, which is a great joy. Our new house in the D.C. area has narrow doorways, but I am determined to drag a big fat Christmas tree into it anyway, despite my wife’s understandable skepticism. I will be responsible for vacuuming pine needles for months. But it is totally worth it.
Merry Christmas. Jim Comey
Comey is dead on with his advice and attitude. America is resilient, it is big, and it is strong. The terrorists of ISIS and al-Qaeda will not defeat the spirit of the American people. It is what draws people here. The vast majority desperately wants to be a part of what continues to be the most successful experiment in governance in human history. A few want to destroy it.
Americans need to be vigilant this holiday season, but not afraid.
Whenever you travel, or go to a religious event, or civic celebration, be wise, look around, and listen to your inner voice. If something does not feel right, or someone looks out of place, tell someone in authority.
This is not paranoia; it is Comey’s “Yellow” state. Think about your surroundings, and what you would do in a sudden emergency. Many businesses and organizations are already doing this for their employees and members for work or school environments. You should do an on the spot version in all public situations.
Americans don’t retreat in fear; that is not our style. We get ready, and we commit to take back any part of our lives the terrorists “think” they have taken from us.
Do not give in to fear; be watchful and ready. And pray for those who are defending our freedoms at home and abroad, the men and women of our military, intelligence and law enforcement. Their sacrifices are beyond measure.