The Lesson of 9/11

Bert The Turtle prepares to duck and cover (a surefire means of withstanding a nuclear blast)
Bert The Turtle prepares to duck and cover (a surefire means of withstanding a nuclear blast)

To date, America has borrowed (by some estimates) over $2.5 trillion to wage the War on Terror, while some tens, or hundreds, of thousands have lost their lives. To date, there have been over 6,280 American military casualties alone.

It’s overly simplistic to associate all of these costs to the Bush Administration. It might, however, be fair to say that what happened on September 11, 2001 provided a means to sneak all sorts of bad policies/actions past the American people. These have ultimately had a great impact on all the world’s inhabitants.

When Bush promised to “smoke them out of their holes,” he reassured a scared and confused nation that everything would be made right. One has to ask if, amidst the chaos, anyone actually realized how much they’d give up to fulfill this vision.

In the years that followed, we witnessed the emergence of the liberty eroding Patriot Act, learned of the (ongoing) atrocities of Guantanamo, and stood largely silent, as Homeland Security made notions like racial-profiling and “guilty until proven innocent” seem somehow acceptable.

In a perverse twist of events, the actions of the American government have emphasized what anti-American groups have often claimed. One might even argue that the terrorists’ attacks have underscored how paper-thin the notions of liberty and justice are in the United States.

What’s most concerning in all of this, is that more than 10 years later, we still haven’t (on the whole) looked critically at how our emotions cloud our actions. The American journalist H. L. Mencken once opined, “The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.” The past decade’s devolution of policy leaves us with the dismal notion that we have, in fact, chosen the illusion of safety over the inconvenience of doing what’s moral.

If the fallout of 9/11 proves any one thing, it’s that fear leads us to loosen our grip on liberty, and accept that which would otherwise seem ludicrous. Therefore, those seeking the populace’s compliance needn’t make an appeal for the common good; instead, they have to scare them.

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