When teaching eulogies as special occasion speeches, I explain that such speeches contain four parts: an expression of mutual grief because of the loss; an expression of praise for the one(s) who died; a consoling of the audience; and a vision of a better future because of the life or lives lost.
It is quite unfortunate that final step has not come to pass in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001. We have become a nation living in deeper fear then ever.
Terrorism is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as an act intended “(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or; (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.”
Using this definition, it appears that the Taliban and al-Qaida have met their basic goals. The attacks on U.S. soil met all three of Black’s criteria, and the nation continues to be a state living in fear, paranoia and intimidation.
Not in the same sense as when Americans feared the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea and North Vietnam, making all Communists the “evildoers” of their day. Those conflicts were mere continuations of World War II. Different enemies, same theaters.
However, the United States survived in relative peace for years after the Vietnam War, with only a few small conflicts and U.N. and NATO cooperative missions. For three decades, our lives were defined not by war, but by commerce. Life was good on Sept. 10, 2001.
What happened after our “day that will live in infamy” saddens me to no end. The United States became instantly paranoid and, to some extent, rightfully so. Like Dec. 7, 1941, we were caught off guard.
The government did not protect the U.S. and her citizens from enemies foreign and domestic. The difference was in the years immediately following 2001, the nation badly overreacted.
Congress set into motion an “us vs. them” mentality beginning with the passage of the USA Patriot Act; the public suddenly became aware of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — though it had existed since 1978 — and domestic spying.
We established the Office of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. We expanded law enforcement tools and reduced basic freedoms for Americans.
Liberals and conservatives alike were afraid to scream that many of these actions may violate the Constitution for fear of being called unpatriotic.
All were designed to prevent future terrorism. All succeeded in increasing paranoia. All had the consent of a paranoid-driven Congress and American people.
It continues today with the anti-immigration laws in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.
It continues with the bellowing comments of propaganda and rage that have just enough truth to get past media scrutiny.
It continues with the tightening of immigration laws and the building of fences to keep "them" out, at least those from Mexico and points south seeking a better life in the U.S.
It continues with the news organizations, some more so than others, using religion, skin color and national origin as a descriptor of evil.
It continues with the anti-immigration websites, anti-government conspiracy websites, anti-Muslim websites and anti-Arab websites.
It continues because of a collective selective memory and a move toward an isolationist agenda.
We've all forgotten the words of President Bush when he told the American people and the Joint Session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, that Islam is not the enemy and that America will not live in fear.
“It is natural to wonder if America's future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.”
It is so unfortunate that the president was wrong. Terrorism has defined the American dream and America’s future since that sunny late summer day in New York, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.
We have become a nation living in fear.
David Rosman will be interviewed at 5 p.m. Sunday on KOPN's "Core Issues" with host Tyree Byndom. Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.