A group of settlers fleeing persecution hit Plymouth Rock almost 400 years ago. Over time, their descendants and the immigrants who joined them defeated King George III’s political oppression, migrated westward to expand the “empire of liberty,” bounced back from a bloody civil war, helped ignite an industrial revolution, defeated the Nazis and an Evil Empire, and experienced hegemony previously unknown. Resilience spurred America’s rise.
The attacks of 9/11 were so effective because the Pentagon and Twin Towers were symbols of American military and economic supremacy. The two explosions at the Boston Marathon shocked us because the event itself is a symbol of the celebration of achievement. The radicals that wish to destroy our way of life cannot defeat us using conventional methods, so they resort to warfare on the psyche.
Fear arises both from being aware of a threat and from feeling powerless to deal with it. And although it is impossible to eliminate every threat that causes such fear, Americans do have the power to manage their fear and their reactions to it. For…years, however, Washington has been sounding the alarm about apocalyptic terrorist groups while providing the American people with no meaningful guidance on how to deal with the threats they pose or the consequences of a successful attack. This toxic mix of fear and helplessness jeopardizes U.S. security by increasing the risk that the U.S. government will overreact to another terrorist attack.
The only way to defeat terrorism is to fight back. Fight back by carrying on. Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tells a story about a bombing in Jerusalem:
The next day, I went to Cafe Hillel to report on the aftermath. To my surprise, it was open for business. There was still debris on the street, but the blood had been washed away, the glass had been swept up and coffee was being served…to a large group of customers…[who were] drinking cappuccino and reading newspaper accounts of the attack.
We would like to think that there is something the government can do to stop this kind of violence. A lot of politicians and bureaucrats have a lot to gain by convincing us that they have the answer, but there isn’t a satisfactory answer that the government can provide.
At the end of the day, the responsibility lies within each of us. Flynn recalls the actions of those aboard United flight 93:
That plane’s passengers foiled al Qaeda without any help from — and in spite of the inaction of — the U.S. government. There were no federal air marshals aboard the aircraft. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, could not intercept it; it did not even know that the plane had been hijacked. Yet United 93 was stopped 140 miles from its likely destination — the U.S. Capitol or the White House — because of the actions of the passengers who stormed the cockpit.
As always, we can only prevail through resilience.