This weekend Americans commemorate the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Over the past decade and a half, we have endured major changes to our lives and our psychology. For a long time after the attack, we were in mourning, and in many cases, denial. Americans were suffering like a family that had lost a child.
Americans rebuilt the entire neighborhood around the area of the destroyed twin towers. A magnificent new skyscraper, and the surrounding monuments, are attracting people from all over the world, to come and pay their respects and to remember and to learn.
Since 911, we have rebuilt Ground Zero, but what about our national mental health?
There is evidence that as a nation, we are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some war veterans come home from the war zone and at first appear perfectly normal, but over time, the symptoms of their mental debilities reveal the truth.
I see the same pattern emerging in our nation’s psychological profile. Our culture is showing all of the symptoms of PTSD; unreasonable and unprovoked irritability and anger, irrational fears and behaviours, extreme drug and alcohol abuse, violence toward authority and social withdrawal. Any family practitioner will tell you, these are classic clinical symptoms of PTSD.
Technically, the Great Recession has ended. But a cloud of despair, financial distress and uneasiness about our future is still hanging over the American Dream as thick as the dust from the collapsed WTC towers.
So what can we do to promote healing?
I suggest we foster a revival of Americanism, by promoting what I call ‘Familyism.’
‘Familyism’ is the practice of extending unconditional love and sacrifice for those with whom you share your existence. It is simply an acknowledgement that we are all limbs from the same tree. It is the love of our American Family that has motivated thousands of young American soldiers to give the full measure of their love for their siblings in American citizenship.
It should be the goal of all Americans to make patriotism cool again. Though some people are suspicious of patriotism, their attitude ignores the commonality we all enjoy as Americans. Citizens unhappy with our American social conditions should be challenging their siblings in citizenship to clean up the system, to put our uniquely American principles of unity, equality and opportunity to work more effectively than ever.
They should be waving the flag and extolling their ‘family’ to not forget about them!
For too long we have listened to pundits tell us that Americanism is a selfish, self-righteous term that alienates Americans from other nations. That it has come to represent American arrogance and imperialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Americanism is simply the unique attitude that the liberty we enjoy should be available to all peoples on earth, and to the extent that we can facilitate that, we will.
So how to treat our PTSD? First, embrace the concept that Americans are all members of a special family, and so we have too much in common to let any internecine battles get in our way. And second, that practicing Americanism is a great thing, not just for our people, but for all of the oppressed people on the planet.
In his inaugural address, FDR soothed a worried nation. He said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” He was appealing to the collective courage Americans can garner when the family is threatened. Now, I say the only thing America has to fear, is turning on ourselves.
Fifteen years after the 911 attack, America still faces an existential threat to our existence. Remember the unity we felt for a few months after 911? When everyone was wearing lapel flags and singing patriotic songs? When just saying the Pledge of Allegiance brought tears to our eyes? It is going to take a dedicated effort to bring all of us back into the family, but unless and until we do, we may never be the same exceptional country again.
And wasn’t that the goal of the hijackers on 911?
Rick Elkin is an Escondido resident and author of the just released book, Turn Right at Lost: Recalculating America. www.rickelkin.com/