Next week begins on Sunday, September 11th, 2011, exactly ten years since tragic terrorist attacks took the lives of thousands of innocent Americans. The U.S. was targeted by religious extremists in an attempt to shake our nation’s ideological foundation. However, next week ends on Saturday, September 17th, 2011, 224 years since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. While we Americans mourn the loss of the innocent citizens killed on 9/11, we must reflect on what values we as a society wish to shine upon the world, and consider what roles we wish government and religion to play in our collective civic life. Indeed, we the people truly have the power to decide what political tactics work and what policies are politically acceptable. Let us use it.
We as a people are almost a decade into responsive military operations, the USA PATRIOT Act, and other policy reactions to the attacks; with these reactions we have abandoned the words and spirit of our Constitution. Our government has intruded into our private lives, our people have discriminated against Muslims and those from the Middle East, and our elected officials have continually used fear to obtain votes and support.
It is true that the balance of security and liberty is never an easy one. This truth was just as real to those who fought the Revolutionary War and created our founding documents as it is now for those who witnessed the horrors of 9/11 and face endless threats to domestic tranquility. However, we must remind ourselves that those documents were written in the cauldron of war by people who surely faced death if their revolution proved unsuccessful. Their values remain as true today as they did over two hundred years ago.
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, next week should be a week of reflection and deep contemplation. We must never forget that in addition to the victims of 9/11, countless American lives have been lost in war—with more added every month. Their sacrifice demands that we remain faithful to our Constitution and its ideals of responsive and responsible governance, equal protection, and the separation of church and state.
We as citizens must re-commit ourselves to those ideals. We must demand that 21st Century US foreign policy hold as central a clear articulation of Constitutional values—which are our values. Just as important as speaking to the world, however, is listening to what those abroad have to say, as well. It is the only way to hold a productive conversation and to foster understanding among our people and the nations of the world. We as a society must remain faithful to the civil liberties and governmental limitations enshrined in the Constitution, and thus collectively decide our image abroad. If for no other reason, our posterity deserves the blessings of liberty given to us by those before.