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Terrorism: The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Interstate Highway 15 heads northeast from Los Angeles, angles toward Las Vegas and progresses up to Salt Lake City, the shortest route back to South Dakota and even at that, it is 1,600 miles or more.

Last week Wednesday, we had just passed the San Bernardino exit when we heard the news on our car radio: a shooting at a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino; at least 9 killed, two or possibly three shooters still at large. (Later updated to 14 killed, 21wounded.)

As the green and white San Bernardino exit sign faded in my rear view mirror, I shuddered and wondered aloud to my wife, and co-pilot, what in the world is going on?

It was a rhetorical question, of course. We know what’s going on. There are terrorists at work in this country. They may, or may not, have direct ties to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) but their stated goal is to kill the “infidels” who live in the U.S.

We had been visiting our newest grandchild in Los Angeles. Only weeks old, she is living in a nation far different from the one her parents grew up in and light years apart from the world of the 1950s and 1960s when my wife and I grew up.

Instinctively, my wife speed-dialed our daughter, who is home on maternity leave. The call was not borne out of a fear that she or her family was in immediate danger because San Bernardino is at least an hour east of Los Angeles, but a mom’s first reaction is to make sure her family is OK and make certain they were aware of this latest atrocity.

Probably since our three daughters married and began carving out their own careers, I’ve encouraged them to consider living in South Dakota. Two of them do. But even living here, the harsh reality is that no one is totally safe. The Great Plains, including this state, is more secure because it has no urban centers, though Ellsworth Air Force Base likely shows up on some terrorist map.

As South Dakotans, we are somewhat removed from the terrorism threat, but we also know we are part of this nation’s struggle to come up with a strategy to eradicate the evil. At minimum, we can urge our elected officials to take military action that recognizes the world as it is today, not as it used to be.

Dec. 9, 2015