The world must certainly be confused about our national psyche. They are no doubt looking amongst themselves, furrowing their eyebrows, trying to make sense of our about-face. France is probably chilling with Germany somewhere in a corner, saying America needs to “relax” as it methodically sips coffee and thumbs through the Derrida Reader. Britain is letting out a “yeesh” and slowly stalking away from our long embrace. For two years after Sept. 11, the world became used to the stubborn, arrogant, go-it-alone, kill-the-bastards approach of the United States with regard to its terrorist enemies. Now, however, America has become a paranoid victim again after its lengthy, and ultimately dissatisfying, spree of righteous vengeance.
But we seem to be settling in quite well with the new national personality. Americans take solace in Fox News Channel’s omnipresent indication of our nation’s “terror alert” status. Patriotic citizens around the country now raise both the American flag and the orange “high alert” flag of the Department of Homeland Security. Pundits and anchormen comb through our country’s weak spots and ask the questions that need to be answered, like whether our seaports are safe from oil tankers—which could clearly be used as torpedo missiles—and whether Air France should ever be allowed to enter the country’s airspace. In the recent stint of “high alertness,” I took the personal step of wearing only orange boxer shorts, to remind myself daily where my fear level should be.
The only way to feel less afraid, according to our president, is to drop bombs—sort of the national equivalent of a sigh of relief. But, while the president ponders the question of “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” there are some hints that it’s time to kick our fear habit. For instance, New Yorkers are, by and large, not scared. For some reason the people of New York seem a lot more confident and a lot less fearful about terrorism than people from Bush’s red states. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas was afraid to simply sleep in Manhattan for the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York this September; instead, he planned to charter a cruise shop docked in the Hudson River for himself and his fellow right-wingers. Though the plan was recently dropped due to mounting criticism, it goes to show that fear, according to Republicans like DeLay, is patriotic and that New York is an island of un-American bravery, useful only for exploitation purposes.
But perhaps the best reason that we should collectively grow a spine is that if we have to live in fear, then the terrorists have won—not to mention the Republicans. And we all know what that would mean: no more sex for anyone…ever.
Erol N. Gulay is an editorial editor.