Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attack on the United States known as 9/11. A decade later, America is not at war with an external enemy as much as it is with itself.
We live in a mixed economy, or a mixed social system. This means we are neither a free country, nor an enslaved one. We’re what most people claim to want: Somewhere in the middle. If the middle between two principled extremes is always the right way, then the United States of 2011 is perfect. So how come we aren’t?
Philosopher Ayn Rand wrote that a mixed economy is a nation “in the process of committing suicide.” To some, including herself, this was obvious decades ago. To others, it’s only starting to become obvious. Day after day, the stock market lurches up and down in wild swings. For the first time in American history, no new jobs are being created, and the credit rating of the United States government has collapsed. The price of gold skyrockets as people rush to find an alternative to the impending fall of the dollar. Budget deficits explode and the national debt is too high to count. Spending by government grows exponentially even as Congress claims to be cutting spending. The President puts a rational face on it all, as he plainly spins it in ways that simply do not correspond to even the most obvious facts. People nervously applaud him with the thought, “If our leader is so out of touch, what will become of us all?”
These are most certainly images of a nation committing suicide.
The analogy, you might say, is not perfect. Usually a person committing suicide intends to do so — but not always. Consider a crack cocaine addict. A crack cocaine addict is in the process of committing suicide. Mental health professionals call addiction “slow suicide.” Sooner or later, absent a reversal in his destructive habits, the crack cocaine addict is going to die. “Best” case, he’ll go on living biologically but his life will be worthless.
We haven’t been attacked by Islamic terrorists, at least directly on American soil, for the last ten years. Is this a tribute to the American invasion of Iraq? No. While that invasion justifiably overturned Saddam Hussein, Hussein had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. Iran, the nation that has spawned more terrorists than any other fundamentalist Islamic government, is more hatefully determined than ever. It’s readying itself with nuclear weapons that they will surely use to blackmail Israel and who knows what else. Under Obama, the U.S. openly says it cares nothing about this, and only wants to talk. Most Americans probably don’t approve of this foreign policy, but they yawn over it at their own peril. Those headlines will come later.
More images of a nation committing suicide.
You cannot fight foreign enemies without a strong economy at home. For one thing, a strong economy is required to build the weaponry necessary to preserve peace through strength. Most Americans don’t like weapons because the thought of using them is abhorrent. And yet, the possession of these weapons — and the willingness to use them as a last resort — is the very thing required to prevent the dreaded conflict. In order to avoid war, you must be prepared to fight one by the strongest means available. Nothing about the foreign and defense policy of the United States today suggests even the remotest willingness to accept this fact. Instead, our commander-in-chief travels the world in luxury, supported by taxpayers, while proclaiming just how evil the United States has been, and how it deserves everything it gets.
A people who are willing to tolerate such a leader without immediate attempts to impeach him are prime players in a nation committing suicide.
The loved one of a suicidal person would normally say to that person, “Don’t do it. You have too much to live for!” America has so much to live for. Politically, morally and economically the United States was the greatest achievement in the history of man. Granted, it tolerated slavery in the beginning, but it was the first social system in history that outlawed slavery for good. The American Bill of Rights made the demise of slavery inevitable. And unhampered capitalism, although much despised by the elites of our own time, lifted the standard of living so high that the poor of today would be envied by royalty at the time of the American Revolution. Without capitalism, we’d all still be poor.
Nobody who lives in the United States, even in the current era of its decline, wishes or chooses to leave it. That really says more than anything. This is still the place where everyone wants to be, and that nobody wants to leave.
As on all anniversaries, platitudes abound. “If only America could return to the period after 9/11, when there was a shared sense of self-sacrifice and common purpose, then all would be well.” Self-sacrifice and common purpose? That’s not what made America great, and it’s not what makes it desirable now.
What makes a society great are its greatest individuals. Individualism is the social and ethical system these great men and women require. The purpose of life is to be happy, and the purpose of a social system is to create the best context possible to achieve that goal. Freedom, capitalism, individual rights — that is the system. This is what the terrorists were going after on 9/11/01. And this is what Americans themselves are allowing their own elected leaders to destroy today.
No terrorist could ever do to Americans what Americans, in their negligence and self-loathing, are allowing their elected officials to do to them. It need not be so, and it never needed to be so. All Americans need to do is to want to live again.