How would the American people react to another major attack on our country? The conventional wisdom is that we would all put aside our differences and rally around our country’s leadership, like we did after 9/11. At least, that’s the consensus that news analysts come to whenever the topic arises in panel discussions.
It’s a reasonable presumption to make. A hopeful one, for sure. But I have to wonder whether or not it would actually be the case. After all, we’re just not the same country that we were twelve years ago.
In the months preceding 9/11, we were pretty content as a nation. Our economy was in relatively decent shape, Republicans and Democrats were finding common ground on education reform, and the biggest news story of the day was the speculation surrounding who actress Jennifer Lopez was dating.
When the attacks came, Americans were struck with shock, fear, and a lack of understanding of who our attacker was. Very few of us had ever heard of Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, or realized just how despised we were in certain parts of the world. Because of this, it was easy to put our trust and faith in our country’s leaders who were tasked with protecting us from follow-up attacks and seeking justice for the thousands we lost. To our leaders’ credit, they momentarily removed their political hats and rose to the occasion. They weren’t looking for someone to assign blame to for the attacks. They recognized the importance of coming together, for the sake of the country, to deal with the problem. And the public followed their lead.
Today is different. For people like me, 9/11 doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago. Yet so much has happened since then.
Many years of a highly politicized war on terror spawned an era of angry finger-pointing, hyper-partisanship, and a malicious media culture that deeply divided this nation.
Things didn’t get better after George W. Bush left office.
Our current president, who rode into power on promises of healing and unification, has instead gone to great lengths to drive the wedge of division deeper into the heart of our country. The Obama administration has turned slander and vilification into an art-form, obsessed with pursuing social-justice, and punishing their political opposition rather than working with them to deal with the severe challenges our country faces. The result has been an embittered nation – one that has been divided and disillusioned along the lines of social-class, race, and gender.
This political culture has led to the public being less trusting of our government than ever before. Conspiracy theories are running rampant, and many people feel as though their rights are quickly being peeled away while opportunistic politicians insist that it’s all being done for the greater good.
We have a national media who most people believe is dishonest, is in the tank for the president, and is actively pushing a progressive agenda.
We’re watching our economic future collapsing under the weight of unsustainable spending from a government, already enormous in size, whose leaders would rather demagogue issues than ensure our children have the same opportunities in life that we’ve had.
Many of us distress that there’s no longer a will for dealing with foreign threats. We’re war-fatigued. We’re no longer feared by other countries. Our operations in the Middle East have proven costly in both blood and treasure, and there is a growing isolationist sentiment, especially in conservative circles. Some of us question whether or not the battle against radical Islam is still worth fighting, while others are convinced that our operations abroad are making us less safe. We have a president who has never bothered to offer a bold defense of our efforts in Afghanistan, but has demonstrated a willingness to cover up a terrorist attack in Libya that took the lives of four American patriots.
For supporters of the president, it’s the other side of the aisle that’s tearing the country apart. They’ve been convinced by the Democratic party and the media that it’s those dirty racists in the Republican party who are bringing down the country because they only care about rich people, and despise the weak and the helpless in our society.
Right now, it’s difficult to identify any area of our government that Americans feel they can place trust or faith in. There’s little hope for strong leadership because polarity is now the winning formula for winning elections and moving forward on agendas.
After the unity I witnessed in the wake of September 11th, 2001, I never thought our country would look like it does now, just over a decade later. Back then, there was an understanding that it was only a matter of time before our country was attacked again… And when that day came, we would face that challenge together as Americans.
But now, I just don’t know… And that bothers me.
If another successful attack is pulled off in our country (God forbid), I’m concerned that our current climate of division and weak leadership would not guide us back to cohesion. I’m concerned that the act would immediately become politicized, public unrest would overflow, and an unprecedented level of chaotic dysfunction would ensue because any remaining confidence in our government could very well evaporate.
As we’ve seen with the economy and our national debt, our top leaders just don’t have it in them to deal with a crisis anymore. We’re not even at a point right now where there’s a consensus that nearly $17 trillion in national debt is a bad thing, and that alone should terrify us all.
In the face of a major attack on our country, we would need a real leader. But right now, we’re led by a man who has neither the integrity nor the maturity to face serious challenges head-on. We’re led by a man whose inclination is to run away from big boy problems, find a scapegoat to assign blame to, and carry on with his own agenda.
For these reasons, I fear another attack would not serve as a rallying cry, but rather as the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the American psyche is concerned. I don’t see how a president who has spent his time in office alienating half of the country is going to be able to suddenly pull people together. And one has to wonder if he would even try. Judging by his track record, who’s to say he wouldn’t blame an attack on sequestration cuts to national security spending, or find some other creative method of painting blood on the hands of congressional Republicans?
I worry about this kind of thing because the solvency of America is on the brink, and not just economically. Our country is so weak and divided right now that we could just be one more catastrophe away from completely losing our grip and our identity.
For the sake of us all, let’s hope it’s not a scenario we’ll have to contend with.