Somewhat More Free

2001 was an interesting time to bet on Americans’ fear.

The country was still basking in the post-Cold War afterglow. The ghost of Vietnam had been buried in the sands of Kuwait. The previous decade had seen a booming economy and the federal government had been running a surplus.

But some people saw the underlying fear and fragility, and, in a morning, started us terrorizing and tearing down ourselves and each other.

The lives lost that morning were a tragedy. So too the lives lost since. And so too all the years lost from all of our lives as we’ve been transfixed and terrorized by the media circus.

Eighteen years later, we’re still playing their game by their rules. We’re doing what they hardly dared to hope — ripping our culture apart in a vain attempt to prove our strength.

Imagine if bin Laden woke up one morning to the news that Donald Trump just called off a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. Do you think he’d declare his mission accomplished, or would it still be too soon?

Eighteen years later, we’re still strong enough and still free enough to face the fear and choose a different path. Not one that denies evil and enmity in the world, but one that doesn’t terrorize everyone in the name of Freedom®.

We could give al Qaeda their own “mission accomplished” moment. We could show that there’s a whole lot more native strength in this population than they ever bargained for. That shouldn’t be too much greatness to ask for, should it?

We could decide that two decades of fear and fraternal violence were more than enough, couldn’t we? We could turn back from the path of fear, and begin again our slow painful beautiful quest to become “somewhat more free.


In loving memory of Langston Hughes, Molly Ivins, and Brian Doyle.