The trauma exposed America's vulnerability to attack. That is obvious. More profound was its exposure of how fragile is the nation's psyche when America's exceptional security and freedom from the events that bedevil ordinary countries is called into question. We couldn't handle it. So we have absorbed it and made it part of our collective consciousness. The consequences are pernicious.
Above all, Americans have found a renewed purpose in our dealings with the world that is unhealthy. Summed up in the catch phrase "global war on terror," it is a convenient ordering principle. Convenient intellectually since we are spared the bother of figuring out who exactly out there wants to do us harm -- and why. It conjures a suitably stereotypical image of the "threat" -- an Islamic jihadist, bearded & turbaned -- who hates us for being who we are. His methods are diabolical, lending an aura of alien malice to our free floating dread. That gives emotions the upper hand over thinking.
The "global war on terror" is politically convenient, too. Our masters have used it effectively for more than a decade to justify whatever they find it expedient to do abroad -- and at home. We are cowed by our own fears, which are systematically stoked and manipulated. The GWOT has impelled us into a series of military and political adventures that range from the useless to the catastrophic to the absurd. The pointless invasion and occupation of Iraq is the most tragic-comic of these adventures. A failure on every count that leaves us more endangered by would-be terrorists, deprived of respect throughout the Muslim world -- and elsewhere, poorer by a trillion or so dollars, facing a strengthened Iran, the abject Iraq project has yet to be pronounced a failure by either our leaders or their courtiers in the press and think tanks.
Elsewhere, we insist on seeing ourselves as the victims of the worldwide jihadist campaign to undo us. So we chase terrorist phantoms. In 24 countries Special Forces and other under the radar operatives are combating any and all Muslims who might bear us ill-will. Since the threat is omnipresent, since the GWOT has no time-frame, that means that we must worry about the future too. So not just tangible present dangers but prospective intangible ones are our targets.
We all are implicated in the deeds we have done since 9/11. We have made torture a national policy, we have besmirched our good name in the eyes of the world, we have been passive accessories in repealing some of our most cherished liberties, we lie with impunity and we accept lies from our rulers as natural and necessary. Along the way, we have lost our self respect in a manner that we cannot acknowledge. For to do so is make an admission that we have done things as a nation that run counter to what we believe is the very soul and essence of our collective being.
We have permitted ourselves to indulge in the exaggerated privileges of victimhood too long and too often.