Courageously, recklessly free
"The day we changed" ran the headline in a local daily paper on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.
September 11, 2001 was a horrific day. Most of us know people who lost loved ones or people who narrowly escaped flying on one of the ill-fated planes.
We all also know people who have served overseas in the ensuing wars, and we know of the scars they bear.
The images remain seared in our minds.
Yet, I think we should fight the notion that our national psychology changed that day.
The low-grade vandals who pulled off 9/11 hoped Americans would change, that we'd become paranoid, that we'd become less free, that we'd become afraid, paralyzed, unwilling to take advantage of the great boon that is living in the United States of America.
Up until 9/11, our nation had lived without invasion by a foreign power since the British burned the White House in 1814.
Yes, it is a shock when our luxurious sense of safety is violated.
However, other developed nations have survived much worse.
During the three months of the Blitz in England in 1941, the British people endured nightly Nazi bombings that eventually killed 43,000 civilians.
Due to their military unpreparedness, the British were unable to defend their skies.
However, the out-gunned Royal Air Force picked off a few Nazi bombers and inflicted enough damage to give the Nazis pause.
During the nightly onslaught by 2,600 Nazi bombers, the British policy was to recover from each attack as quickly as possible, clean up the mess and move on with daily life.
The King and the Queen, in an act of patriotic courage, stubbornly stayed in London through it all.
Winston Churchill made a point of watching the nightly bombing, a "great show," in his words, from London rooftops.
And in the end, after three months of nightly terror, the British people prevailed. The Nazis failed to soften up the country enough to invade.
The Battle of Britain, despite the massive casualties suffered by the British public, was a great victory for their nation.
The victory came in large part due to the refusal of the people of Great Britain to cave in to their fears. They refused to give up. They maintained their stiff upper lip.
Modern-day Israel suffers constant terrorism. Yet the policy of the Israeli government is to clean up as quickly as possible after every attack and get things back to normal.
There are other examples too numerous to mention. World War II is full of tales of courage in the face of invaders and true forces of evil.
Despite our best efforts, we may be attacked again. Somebody might slip through. You simply cannot mount a fool-proof defense against suicidal idiots.
What we need to realize is that what the people who attack us hate is our freedoms.
They hate our freedom to speak our mind.
They hate our freedom to live as we please.
They hate our freedom to move about without restriction.
They hate our freedom of conscience.
If an attack such as 9/11 happens again, it will be horrible. We will mourn the victims. We will suffer scars.
But instead of letting such an attack become "the day we changed," we should militantly and bravely move forward living as free people.
Instead of spending a trillion to chase stone-age bad guys in the godforsaken mountains of Afghanistan, let's spend half-a-trillion increasing our detective work at home.
Instead of inspecting the shoes of old ladies at the airport, let's just decide that there are some losses of convenience we won't put up with, some risks we're willing to embrace.
There is a recklessness to freedom. You cannot be totally free and totally secure at the same time. It is not possible.
When it comes to a choice between freedom and security, I'll take freedom almost every time.
Safety is a false promise. Just when we think we've got it all covered, some new threat arises from out of the blue. We're always preparing for the problem that already happened, not the one that could happen tomorrow.
It is right and good that we commemorate those who died in the awful attack of September 11, 2001.
But let's honor their memory and the memories of those who have died since, not by giving into our fears, but by continuing to recklessly wallow in our freedom as Americans.