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GETTING TOUGH ON TERRORISM DOESN'T DIMINISH CONSTITUTION

Maybe something good will come from something bad. After the services in Oklahoma City a mourner said that was her hope.

And isn't that exactly what the whole country is now praying for - some real idea of how to deal with terrorism, homegrown and foreign?It is not an impossible dream. But it will come about only when Americans are willing to change or suspend some of their lifetime convictions and practices to create a society that can live not only in freedom but in the safety and civility without which freedom withers unto death.

Americans showed the healthiness of intellect to examine themselves during World War II and are beginning to show it about racial prejudice. It should not be beyond us to achieve it to deal with terrorism. Like war, and like bigotry, its parents, terrorism is a threat not only to our lives but to democratic society.

What have we lost, trying to conduct international politics, otherwise known as diplomacy, in a world where leaders must wear bulletproof vests, where the pope appears behind glass, where Americans have to think "Pan Am 103" when they board an American plane?

Do we have to get used to our building and families being blown up by domestic and foreign terrorists?

No, not if we are not so rigid as to refuse to change some of our convictions about the absolute primacy of our rights above our survival. A relatively easy place to start examining ourselves is President Clinton's sensible request that Congress give the FBI more authority to monitor domestic terrorist groups and prohibit financial support from America to known foreign terrorists.

The American Civil Liberties Union, among others, argues that these proposals are unduly restrictive of Americans' legal rights. I do not agree, but let's assume there's room for differences of opinion.

The issue becomes whether those differences are so important that Americans opposed to the proposals must stand pat and refuse to take necessary action against terrorism.

Fighters for freedom of the press accept certain restrictions like libel laws. Many supporters of the Second Amendment accept restrictions against handguns and assault weapons. Americans allow themselves to be searched at airports, without a warrant or a by-your-leave.

Do the proposed restrictions against terrorism destroy the Constitution? I am among those Americans who believe the opposite - that they strengthen it by promoting the civility of action and discourse essential to democratic society. Abuse is possible, but Congress can guard against it by a time limit and continuous overseeing by a few respected Americans outside government.

We cannot be positive that Clinton's stronger measures against terrorism, and an injection of U.S. government honesty about terrorist nations, are the precise and only measures we should take.

But we can be positive that our present regulations and attitudes are not sufficient to do the job of combating terrorism. So, if we all just stand pat on our privileges, and attitudes, future generations of mourners will still be hoping that good will come out of bad, still just hoping.