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It has been imperiled before: in sacking of Washington, internal convulsions of Civil War, formalized institution of slavery, destruction of Native American cultures, seizure of Panama, machinations of McCarthyism, dropping of atomic bomb. Somehow, lady liberty was able to dust herself off and recapture inspiration and vision she represents to world.
Now she faces her biggest challenge yet: surviving intact in a prevailing climate of fear. There have been wars before where too many young men died before their time. This time, disturbed sleep of watchful, wary soldier in his bivouac has moved into bedroom of suburbia. We no longer feel safe, agonizing over vulnerability of our children and loved ones. We watch danger alerts turn different colors and know that sometime, somewhere, another strike will come.
The long heritage of openness, personal liberties, restraint, innocence until guilt is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and willingness to defend those rights to death, has dissolved into murk of security above freedom, life above ideals, and apathy above involvement. We invade each other's privacy as a mechanism of defense. We abuse and humiliate our prisoners in name of preventing their future abuse and humiliation of us. We expand our "no fly" lists to close that traditionally-open golden door. We shut down our borders lest a terrorist lurks among tired, poor masses.
A post-911-world will never be as innocent as before, no more than permanent changes wrought by assassination of President Kennedy or bombing of Pearl Harbor could be avoided. Reaction to tragic, horrifying events is inevitable, both personally and politically. It is when that reaction becomes basis for major decisions and colors how laws are interpreted, ethics are enforced, and relationships are developed that we must step back and look at our deep-rooted principles and identify where they have become warped and withered.
It is when we look at world through eyes of those who hate and threaten us that we see true power of terrorism: not to destroy us but to assimilate us. That is when terrorists will know that they have truly won.
Virginia Bola is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of an interactive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.drvirginiabola.blogspot.com