The Lord's Grace
My America
Fighting Evil

Where Were You?
And where do you stand two years after Sept. 11?
by Brendan Miniter

9 Sep 2003

     Someday someone will ask you that perennial question of historical events. It'll probably be a few days before the anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington. It might even be a clear, September day, with a cloudless, deep blue sky.
     But whether terror will be but a distant memory will depend on how you can answer the question. Yes, where one stood that day was just a quirk of fate. I was in Brooklyn when the planes hit and managed to make it to within a few blocks of the burning towers and back across the East River to my apartment before they collapsed.
     The significant question, however, isn't where chance found each American that day. Rather it is where each American came to stand when it was time to confront the enemy. Where were you? Were you willing to control your fear and make the sacrifices necessary to defeat the terrorists and their murderous ideology? Were you willing to leave the United Nations in its moral confusion and confront the enemy in his sanctuaries?
     To win this war, Americans have been asked to put up with hassles when flying. Other forms of public transportation also require new precautions. Attorney General John Ashcroft is now touring the country outlining other efforts to thwart and capture terrorists. Reasonably aggressive law enforcement tactics are essential to achieving victory. On Sunday, President Bush put a few price tags on some of these sacrifices--$87 billion over the next year. That price is a comparably easy one to pay. Washington will cut a check.
     But to overcome terrorism Americans must remain willing to pay the price of mastering our emotions. We must not give into the cravenness of fear, nor the seduction of half-measures. America is, as Ronald Reagan said, the last, best hope of mankind because our resolve and courage are the best guarantors for freedom. There's no need for "Victory Gardens" for this war, but Americans must cultivate strength within themselves.
     This is a war not only over the future of the Middle East, but over our very soul as a nation. Do we believe in ourselves and that we occupy a unique place in history? Does America have the moral authority to stand up--alone if necessary--against the tyranny of terrorism?
     If so, then as Americans we must act. Today we have a president who is willing to take the battle to the terrorists even in the face of international pressure to do nothing. But for too long as a nation we've allowed our culture, driven by a fear of offending anyone, to drift toward timidity.
     That must end today as we must also move toward rebuilding the civil institutions that ensure the strength of our republic. In the schools we must rescue civics from the social-studies teachers who teach anti-Americanism. In the public square we must fight to preserve the right of religious expression. Within our churches we must demand that our religious leaders lead. Ministers once reinforced the moral authority of a free people by preaching that freedom was God's gift to mankind. Today that message is largely left to the president.
     Howard Dean says the Iraq war was based on a lie and that there are now more terrorists there than when Saddam ruled. Wesley Clark claims America is failing in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Other Democrats running for president have launched similar attacks. These are the words of those who would offer us the middle ground between good and evil. The terrorists are now showing themselves in Iraq and giving us a chance to kill them. We vowed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks never to forget. But those will prove to be empty words if we forget where we must continue to stand.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com
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