If there's one thing we've learned since Sept. 11, it's that decisions made out of fear tend to be very poor ones indeed. We've also learned that unimaginable trauma will cause very different responses in people. People wanted revenge, war, killing.
But above all else, we decided that nothing bad should ever be allowed to happen again, ever. And that idea has proven as harmful as any.
If that means strip-searching every brown person at an airport, then fine. We'll do what we had to do to preserve our way of life. (Because every time a nation has created a permanent group of second-class citizens, nothing but peace, strength and prosperity has followed in its wake.)
If that means war, invasions, occupations then hey: We've got an army. What else is it for? (Peace is nice, but not everyone can be Switzerland, you know.)
If that means imprisoning people without due process, suspending habeas corpus, and letting the government observe your every move, then, well, if you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about? (Now get out there and get shopping, patriot.)
Some of that must have seemed reasonable at the time, six year ago minus a couple days, when you looked out the window and wondered if a Cessna was about to go by spraying nerve gas, or if Iraq was sending us 'thrax-0-grams. (It was very finely milled, if you recall. Pharmacetical grade, not that crunchy herbal rave shit.)
Fear reigned, even among sane people. The loudest and most frightened got to carry the day. We would have war, announced during NFL games. We would have long lines at airports, and nothing pointy would be allowed on board, because that might mean more death and destruction. We would throw scary foreigners in prisons (in fucking Cuba!) outside the reach of our own laws, which we reminded ourselves were not suicide pacts. They clearly were meant to be revoked if they got in the way.
We would announce terror alerts, mobilizing press secretaries, the color-coded threat board and every resource cable news could throw at telling us about ... well, something scary. Out there! Can't you hear the chatter? Chatter! Someone could be plotting an attack that totally could happen! At any time!
And of course, there's Iraq. Jesus.
Its only link to Sept. 11 is that it was our willfully misguided response. Empires have foundered on lesser miscalculations. History is a heartless bitch. We will not be judged kindly.