National politics have always been rancorous as a rule — especially in the United States, where the two-party system imposes a definite “us vs. them” dichotomy.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the radicalization of our sociopolitical discourse in the years following the 9/11 attacks, as economic mismanagement and an erosion of freedoms have led our nation to increasingly resemble the oppressive Middle Eastern societies from which our radical enemies crawled forth.
It’s not that we didn’t hate each other pre-9/11. (Monica Lewinsky, much?) But perhaps we didn’t hate each other quite so all-consumingly. Osama bin Laden didn’t invent U.S. divisiveness — he merely capitalized on it. And like dutiful sheep following a ghastly shepherd, we’ve turned on one another: pointing the finger, for instance, at union workers like teachers for bankrupting our treasury while using the other hand to cheer on historically low tax rates for corporations.
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks — as much of the nation rallied behind a previously unpopular president — one popular media narrative purported that the architects of the campaign “hated us for our freedoms.” The implications of this argument were intuitive: The U.S. of A is a great nation steeped in liberties, and we must defy the hateful barbarians who attacked us lest they emerge the victors in this global game of chess.
Fast-forward 10 years, two wars (at a cost of some $4 trillion) and one crippling economic recession, and it doesn’t look so good for the home team. Over the past decade, our rich have grown richer while the rest of us have sunk deeper, we’ve witnessed a weathering of civil liberties and, perhaps most worrying, our hate for our fellow citizens seems to have been magnified exponentially.
With the targeted assassination of former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden earlier this year, America may well have cut the head from the snake of fanatical Islam. But the war to stanch the bleeding from the 9/11 attacks — the poisonous rhetoric, the flourishing hate and the internal damage done by those who would seek to destroy America from within — will require the prevailing of cooler heads.
We must not allow the terrorists to win. We must hold fast to our freedoms and our standards of living. We must remain, now and forever, the United States of America.