Last week our country awakened from a long nightmare of fear. For years, our government has used the attacks of September, 2001 to justify an unprovoked war on a sovereign nation, unjust arrests and imprisonments, denial of habeas corpus, illegal wire tapping and spying on our citizens, shameful behavior on the international stage, and a campaign of fear against the American people.
Our government has used the term “9/11” to justify an assault on our nation’s ideals, our Constitution, our rights as citizens. The acronym “9/11” has sounded a 911 emergency distress call, triggering an automatic fear reaction, bringing a past terrorist assault into the immediate present. Millions of Americans have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with the images of the Twin Towers burned into our collective memory, recalled whenever we hear “9/11.” George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Like December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001 holds valuable historical lessons, but we must not let this date define us as a people. To break the cycle of fear, I refer to the attacks of “September, 2001,” setting the date in history, seven years ago, and invite you to do the same.
The cycle of fear appeared in the last days of the 2008 presidential campaign with one party accusing the other candidate of being a “terrorist” and “un-American.” But the American people rose above the politics of fear to embrace, once more, the politics of hope that founded this great nation, electing Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.
Great challenges lie ahead. To meet them, we must overcome the remaining politics of fear, be creative, not reactive. Together, each day, we can rebuild the politics of hope by exercising quiet moments of courage in our daily lives: by reaching out, listening, expressing our opinions, not fleeing from conflict but learning from it, creating new cooperative alternatives to the “either/or” “fight or flight” “win or lose” “all or nothing” “us or them” divisive logical fallacy of the false dilemma that would trap us in the politics of fear.
By exercising hope, by building trust, by the thousands of quiet victories in our daily lives, we will tear down the walls of fear that have divided us from one another and our own good judgment. By embracing what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” we can affirm a vision of new possibilities for ourselves and our world.