When I was growing up during the 70’s and 80’s, we had one enemy: “The Soviets.” It wasn’t that we were at war with them, but we were taught to hate the enemy none-the-less. In a work of fiction, for instance televised wrestling, if you needed an enemy, you put a mask on him and wrote U.S.S.R. (or, for those who realized USSR was an English translation, CCCP) on his trunks. After all, everyone knew that the Soviets were evil. Even when we began to know better, we were still taught that their way of life was evil. This is what the cold war was about, as I’m sure that the children of the USSR were taught the same thing about us. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed is 1991, it appeared that our way of life had won. We would no longer have to worry about having to show our papers when traveling domestically.
One September morning 10 years later, with one terrorist act that was, statistically, an anomaly, and all of those cold war fears were realized. Our enemy is no longer the Soviet in the mask with USSR or CCCP on his wresting trunks, but the result is the same. As a result of the 9/11 attacks, we can no longer travel domestically, at least by air, without showing “our papers” in the form of a photo ID. We can no longer show up at an airport and pay cash for the next ticket to wherever our hearts desire. And even when we buy our tickets in advance, we are subjected to harassment by random KGB – err, TSA – agents.
Since these horrible events five years ago, our rights have been increasingly stripped. Once again, we are fighting a cold war, but this time it is with our own government. Our “official” stance is still that we do not negotiate with terrorists. Apparently, this is taken to mean, by the current administration at least, that we give them everything they want. By declaring “war on terror” and taking away our rights, our government has given the war to the terrorists. By invading Iraq and taking out the leader of a sovereign nation, our government has destabilized an entire region. This lack of stability plays into the hands of the terrorists because they can legitimately blame us for this problem and easily recruit new members.
Sadly, the cold war was lost five years ago, with the events following 9/11, ten years after it had ended. We have lost it as much to our own government as to the terrorists who have attacked us. Today, I mourn the loss of those who died, but I also mourn the loss of our freedoms.