A Day of Remembrance and Reflection

Tens of millions of Americans will pause today to remember a tragic event that occurred exactly one decade ago. They will remember loved ones lost. They will shed a tear. They will think back to where they were on that infamous day. Some will pray. Others will raise a glass or bow a head.

A few people will also think beyond the devastating shock and lasting grief to consider what has happened to their country in the days since September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. And so are more than 6,200 US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians in countries far away.

We’re not going to offer an opinion on the various and multiplying foreign wars in which America is engaged today. There will be plenty of that in other publications. Instead, we pause to consider the collective psyche (for want of a better phrase) of the people who today call themselves “American.”

The political environment was very different ten years ago, when Bill and Addison were recommending “dear readers” buy gold and sell US stocks. The Twin Towers had just fallen and many people found themselves living in a state of fear, reminded constantly that the next attack might be imminent…at a ball game, a concert, in a mall. They were told to be “on guard” and to report any suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities. Everybody would come to watch everybody. A nation of “Little Brothers.” Americans also got used to living with color-coded terror alerts. They were reminded, daily, of “The Mission,” and instructed to surrender many and various civil liberties in exchange for the promise of safety against an enemy largely unknown and frequently misunderstood, a trade that had once moved Benjamin Franklin to observe, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

A state of fear often tends to move people closer to “the cause.” They stand with their backs against one and other, looking outward. But rarely to they look inward, at what they are defending. Perhaps this is a natural instinct, to bandy together in the face of threats to the group, perceived or actual. We see this in nature all the time. Either way, it soon came to pass that, in many circles, criticism, part of the free and open dialogue on which “The Home of the Free” had for so long prided herself, became tantamount to treason.

“We were called treasonous for writing that the US dollar was in bad shape, and likely to get worse,” Addison told us on a conference call recently. “We were called treasonous for writing that we didn’t think America should involve herself in costly foreign wars, that the country couldn’t afford it, neither financially nor morally.”

Many of our Dear Readers wrote in to cancel their subscriptions. Good folks, scared folks, penned hateful emails, accusing The Daily Reckoning of siding with the enemy, simply because we had voiced an opinion, because we had questioned what was being said on television and by the government…just as we had always done. People put their hands on their hearts and stuck their fingers in their ears. They turned their back on free and open discussion — on some of the most important topics of our time, no less — in droves.

In reckonings more recent, as conflict zones abroad multiplied and the decade anniversary of that fateful day drew closer, we began again to wonder about the costliness of nation building. The reader responses, at least anecdotally, seem somewhat different this time around. To a reckoning of Bill’s earlier this week, we received these replies (and more)…

Wrote one Fellow Reckoner: “As usual, Bill Bonner, whether one agrees with him or not, makes you think. His comments on the killing of Bin Laden certainly were provocative.”

Adds another: “It is nice to find someone in the US prepared to air these sorts of thoughts publicly.”

And this, from another: “Well said sir and a brave well said considering that America has lost its sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Batten down your hatches sir.”

“What have we become?” wondered another inquiring mind. “How could we have fallen this far? For all intents, we are in a mass trance and most of us seem not to be able to rouse ourselves from it. Day to day life seems surreal now as leaders repeat ad infinitum pointless policy failures and we continue to have hope in them. There is no statesmanship, just blame-laying and name calling…and the endless clarion claptrap of militarism wrapped in the flag.”

And this, from a telling source: “We have a very military family – two sons in service, one son-in-law. When Bin Laden was killed […] and the news came out, there was laughing and jokes and clapping and jumping all around…but not from any of them. They know the horror of war all too well, and they are all malformed as a result of seeing and, I fear, doing too much already.

“You’re absolutely correct, we have become a nation of sheep blindly following the daily slog of propaganda handed out, and I cannot believe the change I’ve witnessed in this country and its people in my lifetime. What indeed do we deserve?”

It’s a question worth our asking. Each and every one of us. As Bill has written many times before, life rarely gives people what they want, but almost always what they deserve…eventually.

Your editor has no idea what’s on “most people’s minds.” He has enough trouble trying to figure out his own thoughts, never mind those of his neighbors. We don’t know if more or less people are coming to question “the cause,” “the mission” and its myriad associated costs and consequences. The dialogue, or at least the environment in which it resides, does seem to have shifted somewhat. Who knows?

Finally, to those who would quiet dissent, who call “treason” for questioning directives meted out by politicians, who view any criticism of war as an act of war, to be punished as such, we ask: If your soldiers are so bravely defending your freedoms abroad, as you say, why then are you so ready to surrender them at home?

A day to remember is also an opportunity to reflect, to turn inward once again and ask what indeed is worth defending.

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning