L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 142, October 8, 2001
More Harm Than Good?
We Want to Live
by David M. Brown
Exclusive to TLE
It is no coincidence that the names of the airlines whose planes were hijacked on Black Tuesday were American and United. That could only have been intentional, to underscore how this attack on America is yes, an attack on America, on the United States.
Get it? American ... and ... United? Get it? Do you get it?
Yeah, we get it, mother-fakirs. Wouldn't have had the same "resonance," or whatever the Arabic word for resonance is, if it'd been Airtran and Midway.
Who knows whether Taliban and company predicted the defiant solidarity and spirited fellow-feeling that emerged in the wake of their pusillanimous remote-control assault. America United. America Rising. America Fights Back as One Rousted Giant, as all the network banners say. Does this stuff show up on the Middle East TV relays? I hope so.
The terrorists expected a response to what they did, probably even want one. But did they expect our spirit? If they expected us to fight back, did they also expect us to be motivated only by pure hatred and anguish, pure bottomless agony, with no intelligence, no thought, no confidence of rectitude?
Americans have surprised themselves by their resilience in the face of so enormous and unimaginable a blow, by the fact that despite all our inveterate and often bitter contentiousness we are united at a certain rock-bottom level. Never happened before in this manifest way. Don't talk about politics or religion if you want to survive at cocktail parties, has been the going wisdom.
So a few might think it's a big mystery why suddenly all the unitedness. Why does nobody bitterly hate each other any more vis-à-vis pregnant chads and Bush-v.-Gore, for example?
But it is no mystery. The reason why 99.99 percent or whatever the number is of Americans are united and feel a sense of kinship and solidarity in response to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is that we are human beings who are alive, want to continue living, and know how to live. There could be no more total assault on what makes an American an American and a human being a human being than what happened in New York and DC, those acts of utter vicious nihilism by total losers.
In response to what happened, there is only one choice, the choice each of us always has: to be or not to be. Live or die. And we've decided to live. All of us.
I am not saying that we have become the equivalent of the Borg of "Star Trek," a breed of beings whose thoughts and emotions are now seamlessly one. There is no agreement on any specific question. Not how we got to this moment, what exactly we should do now, whether passengers should now have guns, whether movies should still have bangs. But we want to live, and somebody just tried to kill us. All of us. If the bad guys could have wiped out the U.S. in one stroke, they would have.
That sense of unity and kinship -- expressed by the flourishing everywhere of a symbol of patriotism, the flag, the only symbol we have available to us that could come close to expressing it -- is no invention of TV, past master though that medium may be at muting and marginalizing dissent. The emotion is real. We want to live.
And America is a place where people can live, better than in a great many other places in the world. We can because of the abundance of material wealth here, yes. Also because of the abundance of freedom and opportunity we still enjoy, notwithstanding all the roadblocks the busybody bureaucrats and politicians insist on plunking in our path. In America, we can make ourselves a to-do list and then, for the most part, we can actually go about doing the things that are on the to-do list, crossing them off one by one as we go along. Try doing that in Russia -- or Afghanistan. Ask a woman in Afghanistan what's next on her to-do list.
We'll keep fighting about abortion and tax cuts and all the rest of it. But one thing we all do know, at least: we want to live.
The American dream is the dream of life, the chance to pursue what makes us happy. America is for people who want to live. And can.