It has now been one year since we witnessed what will likely be the single most galvanizing event of our time. Every generation has had one day, one moment, where our perceptions of the world changed in a heartbeat. To the last generation, it was the assassination of President Kennedy. To the one before that, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before that, the great depression. On September 11th, 2001, the young adults of America got their first taste of how brutal the world can be.
When it occurred, the nation was in a state of paralytic shock. Some were conjecturing that over 10,000 people had died as a results of the attacks (the final tally was just over 3,000), that for once, cynicism and sarcasm had taken a back seat to the cold, harsh, and plain truth: that there exists a large number of people who loathe us, who wish to see all that we stand for lie in rubble. And on that day, they hit us. Hard. The irony of the attacks being carried out on airplanes marked with the words United and American was not lost on us, nor could the intent of their offensive - to do as much damage and kill as many people as possible - be ignored.
Unfortunately, that is what I fear is beginning to happen. In fact, it happened not long after the attacks took place.
I've been of the notion that September 11th was a bruise to the American people: It hurt severely when we got it, ached a bit when we poked at it, but eventually it faded away. After the counterattack of Afghanistan was carried out, one could tangibly sense the country going back to its old routine.
I am not saying that we should never have done that - in fact, it has always been common knowledge that the purpose of a terrorist is to disrupt the norm - but over the last few months, it became apparent to me that this patriotism, this spirit that helped bring us to get through this tragedy, this sense of pride for our country and resolve to bring those who would threaten its land, its people, and its ideals to justice - has all but dissipated.
Quite honestly, I don't think Americans care any more about the world around us as they do about when the next season of Friends will premiere.
I've seen poll numbers, read newspaper and Internet articles about how more than two thirds of Americans believe that we should invade Iraq, but with the people I've spoken to directly, the cynicism and apathy that had supposedly collapsed with the World Trade Center is back in full force, perhaps even stronger than before. Some contend that this is nothing more than a PR move to keep President Bush's approval numbers high on the cusp of mid-term elections. Others say that the government is only doing it for the oil. Another segment of my peers believe that the sole objective behind our impending assault on Saddam Hussein is little more than an act of spite, with George Jr. cleaning up what his dad left behind. Some have even gone so far as to say they'd flee the country if it looked as if a draft might be necessary (which it won't - our military techniques allow us to take out a large portion of a country's military forces before committing ground tropps).
The writing has been on the wall now for decades. In the wake of the Vietnam War, the young people of America have sided further and further with the concept of peace at all costs. Democrats in congress - the same ones who lambasted the Bush administration for not "connecting the dots" and finding a way to prevent the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington - are now complaining that since the Iraqi dictator hasn't done anything yet, we have no grounds to issue a pre-emptive strike.
I don't consider myself a hawk. I don't support the unilateral invasion of any country that doesn't kowtow to our supremacy. I'm not the kind of person who responds to every global conflict with the two-word edict of "Nuke 'em."
With apologies to John Lennon, all I am saying, is give war a chance.
We have spent over two hundred years developing a society that endows us with freedoms that, in other countries (such as the ones in the Middle East), are faint ideals. We can practice whatever religion we choose - or we can choose to not practice any religion we want. We can listen to music. We can set out on the career path of our liking. We can bash the government for not making the decisions we would like them to make.
But with all these freedoms, there comes a heavy price. Whenever a presence comes forward and puts these freedoms in jeopardy, we must do more than just merely defend them. We must go after those who wish us harm and make examples of them, so that those who bear witness to our wrath will think twice about trying it themselves. It started with Afghanistan. It continues with Iraq. But it will not end there.
Sadly, while others are cynical about the public having overreacted to the attacks on September 11th, I fear that despite all the media coverage and public attention that has been paid to them, it wasn't enough to completely sober us to the fact that these people are trying to destroy us. To a degree, the fact that it was only September 11th that goes down in history as a black day, and not also September 12th, 13th, or 14th is something we should be thankful for, but at the same time I have a sinking feeling that the only way the entire American public will pay long-lasting attention to its enemies is if this country really and truly came under attack. Not just "Hijacked planes crash into WTC and Pentagon" attacked, but "Hijacked planes crash into WTC, Pentagon, White House, Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland, and Golden Gate Bridge; President feared dead" attacked.
As always, I could be wrong. I predicted that Bush would use the opportunity of today's revisiting of the events last year to begin the invasion on Iraq. And this time around, I hope I am. But if I'm not, if this sentiment of skepticism and distrust is real, then I feel that in the end, all we stand for will be lost, either by the destructive force of terrorists, or the cowardice of their victims.