Kadner: Fear was the weapon that hit America on 9/11
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 September 9, 2011 11:36PM
United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York shortly before collision as smoke billows from the north tower on September 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Carmen Taylor)
Updated: November 9, 2011 1:02PM
Fear is a powerful weapon. Its destructive force can be more devastating to a nation than a nuclear explosion.
It is the primary tool of terrorists.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, dozens of “patriotic” Americans carrying flags gathered in the Southland to march on a mosque in Bridgeview. More than 200 police officers were called to the scene to prevent violence.
A man from Pakistan, who wasn’t even a Muslim, was bashed over the head in Chicago because “he looked like one of them.”
A neighbor of mine, a woman who grew up in Palestine, suddenly disappeared.
This woman, who would walk the streets every evening in a quiet suburb with her young children, wasn’t taken into custody by federal agents. But she seemed to have vanished.
After several days, I knocked on the door of her home and saw someone peek out of the window. The door opened a crack and a voice asked me what I wanted.
I replied that I wanted to know if everyone was all right because I had not seen the woman or her family.
The woman came out and told me that while standing in a checkout line at a grocery store with her children, people had begun screaming at her to “go back where she came from.”
She felt threatened. Worse, she felt her young children might be harmed. So she decided to hide in her home because she no longer could walk the streets of her neighborhood.
That is terrorism.
I look at the videotapes of the airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers now in a different way than I did in 2001.
I know what the aftermath will be. A war in Afghanistan that will last a decade. Another war in Iraq.
Infringements on civil liberties here that would have been unthinkable before the attacks but are now welcomed by most Americans.
People in this country suspected of being a terrorist or of knowing someone who might be a terrorist or who communicated with organizations in the Middle East were taken into custody, questioned and put in prisons.
Overseas, agents of the American government were given permission to waterboard prisoners to get information, but this was not considered torture by our government. For that, the U.S. used rendition, exporting suspected terrorists to foreign countries where they were tortured.
Why not? Better safe than sorry. Americans had to be protected at all costs.
You can build walls 100 feet high, examine the shoes of airline passengers, put soldiers on street corners and concrete barriers in front of public buildings and you still won’t feel safe. An attack can occur anytime, anywhere.
I have no doubt if there had been another terrorist attack in the months that followed 9/11, there would have been concentration camps in America “to protect the safety” of Arab-Americans.
As speeches are made commemorating the anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, few, if any, will mention the terrible toll it has taken on this nation’s sense of itself.
People were intimidated into silence at the time, and most still don’t want to discuss the consequences today. That, too, is a change in American culture.
The voice of dissent was once valued in this country. The freedom to speak one’s mind is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
But when people are frightened, they don’t want to hear anyone criticizing their government or posing difficult questions about ethics, morality or philosophy.
This is life or death, you will hear people say, not some class in the theory of government. That sort of thing is fine when the country is at peace, but not when you are at war.
They are wrong. It is exactly in such times that free speech is most valuable.
Our Founding Fathers understood that some ideals are worth dying for. Remember the Alamo. Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember 9/11.
But don’t forget all that has happened to our country in the last 10 years.
Fear is the weapon of the terrorist. And the only true defense against it is the inner strength of those who are afraid.
Saying the Pledge of Allegiance is a hollow exercise if people don’t believe in the words, “... with liberty and justice for all.”
It is not easy to give meaning to those words when they mean the most.
In this war on terrorism, Americans must protect their freedoms as aggressively as they would protect their children.
Memorials mean nothing without them.