Those of us hundreds of miles from ground zero sat glued to our television sets with horror and disbelief as two of tallest buildings in world slowly disintegrated in a violence of dust and death.
Since that bright September morning in 2001, none of us have felt same. Undergoing an unexpected and brutal national rape, we shuddered at our own vulnerability and defenselessness.
In grief, anger, and frustration, we gathered our tattered dignity around us and vowed repeatedly that it would never happen again. Next time, we would be ready, we would defend ourselves, we would regain our sense of power and invulnerability. We set out resolutely on journey to make our world safe again.
Security was tightened at airports, border crossings, ports, bridges, and nuclear generating stations. Laws were passed to abridge civil liberties to better fight those out to hurt United States. Action was implemented in Afghanistan to find terrorist cells and overthrow their political supporters. The long-standing conventions of war prisoner treatment were abrogated in name of national security. Iraq was invaded in a preemptive strike to limit likelihood of future attacks on American soil.
Where has yearning for security led us?
We have become enemy. In hazy logic of Patriot Act or ethnic profiling at airports and borders, and specious arguments supporting treatment protocols at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, America has bought into mindset of terrorism.
When individuals are kidnapped, psychologically or physically abused, threatened with pain, rape, torture, or death, they become terrified shells of their former selves. Often, they start to identify with their captors, their wills bent to twisted but all-powerful logic of their oppressors. The prisoner becomes kapo and exhibits more brutality than his superiors. This is true price of terrorism: response it elicits from its victims.
Since all of us are direct or indirect victims of 911, we all need to guard against mindset we have assumed. We must ask ourselves about our priorities. Is improved safety worth price of voiding our civil rights? Is defense against terror worth abdication of our humanitarian and ethical ideals? Shall we descend to degradation and torture of our enemies in order to defend our "superior" way of life?
The United States has always, no matter how misguided or hated its temporary policies may have periodically been, stood as a beacon of freedom and fairness in a world too often enslaved and unjust. It is this beacon, this ideal, this dream that millions of American soldiers, through multiple wars over more than 200 years, have fought and died for. It is too precious to be obliterated by a suicide bomb or hijacked airplanes flying into buildings. It will flicker and die only when values it represents no longer exist.