To Our Readers


Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Challenges ahead are legion

AN administration spokesman said Tuesday, "We will not tolerate intolerance." This contradictory statement reflects the challenge we face, locally, nationally and inter- nationally.

In our zeal to preserve individual safety, rights and freedoms, we're cracking down. Vigilance is a good thing, but repression can be its corollary.

For example, it would be foolhardy not to increase airport security rigorously. However, we must avoid making air travel as onerous, difficult and time consuming as visiting a prison or renewing our driver's licenses. Doing so will hurt tourism and shrink the economy of Hawaii.

For the moment, our shared grief, patriotic unity and fresh memories of the Sept. 11 horror have kept some officious excesses at bay and increased our willingness to tolerate both reasonable security measures and those that are well-meaning but over-the-top.

Eventually, each new measure will have to stand the tests of reasonableness and affordability. Some bear high costs, such as manning planes with sky marshals. Others, such as outlawing carry-on luggage, are cheaper but inconvenient and time consuming. All those bags will have to be checked, loaded and off-loaded and every harried traveler will join the crowd at the carousel.

Easy, speedy, affordable and comfortable air travel made tourism in Hawaii a strong economic engine on which we rely. Packing terminals with passengers waiting to be searched, closing airport parking lots, banning carry-ons -- even forcing people to eat without knives and forks -- will make vacations less attractive.

Forced to meet more stringent ticketing and security requirements, the industry will incur higher costs, which it will pass on to customers.

Congress is debating spending billions to assist the airlines. Drawing the line between fixing what went wrong last week from what was already wrong will be challenging.

Inevitably, even if taxpayers bail out the airlines for losses due to last week's grounding and pick up the check for heightened security, visitors soon will be paying more of their vacation dollars or yen for air travel. That'll leave less for hotels, dining, shopping and other businesses in Hawaii.

In other words, Hawaii has a stake in the response to air terrorism. It must be as efficient and affordable as possible. It should minimize disruption, inconvenience and delay. Most important, it has to work.

>> Newspapers that published editorials expressing concerns about President Bush's immediate response to the attacks, including The New York Times and the Star-Bulletin, were showered with telephone calls and complaints.

Many emails, letters and calls echoed identical opinions in very similar language, which led us to suspect the complaints were orchestrated. This was confirmed by at least one letter writer.

As journalists, we feel obliged to hold up a mirror to events and reflect them as accurately as possible. While we don't expect everybody to agree with our editorials -- we claim no mo-nopoly on truth -- we were surprised by the vitriol and intol- erance we experienced last week.

We, however, will tolerate that kind of intolerance. It's still a free country.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 529-4748, fax to 529-4750, send
e-mail to or write to
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.

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