"War is all hell."
- William Sherman
Life in the United States is getting back to normal.
It's been eight days since the newest poster-boy for evil, Osama bin Laden, and his scurrying band followers slammed passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Last Tuesday's attack blanketed America with a stunned quiet, silencing a usually boisterous country to such an extent that if one listened carefully, one could hear soft weeping. To put it another way, the tragedy was so earth-shattering MTV played nothing but music videos for days straight.
But the gears of a mighty nation - a "good country, a country worth keeping," as Dave Barry called it - have begun to move again. Airlines are flying again, albeit with much tighter security. The New York Stock Exchange - now the most potent symbol of American capitalism - is open again, though not after falling seven percent on Monday. The Bills will travel to Indianapolis this Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff. And most reassuring of all, Major League Baseball has begun play again.
Life in the United States is getting back to normal. But something still isn't right. I can feel it in my bones.
"We are at war."
The sun shines as brightly as ever. One doesn't feel so guilty laughing at a joke anymore. The pretty girl in the Union isn't wearing a frown anymore. Even the mind is beginning to turn back to schoolwork, though ever reluctantly. Still, something is amiss, like a picture frame slightly crooked on the wall that won't hang straight no matter how many times someone tries to fix it.
"We are at war."
That voice in the back of my head; it's not the president who wants Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." It's not the United States Congress who authorized the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks." It's not the puff-blown anchors of CNN and their incredibly tacky "America's New War" graphics.
It's my voice.
It's a voice I'm sure many Americans hear in the quiet moments, the commercial breaks of life - in the elevator, in the checkout line at the grocery store, at a red light. It's a voice of exhaustion. Walking past a newsstand and seeing the covers of Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, - all splashed with images of the Towers collapsing like a dying star - weariness settles over the bones. "Lord, please," one prays with the hushed fatigue of a tired soul. "Let this scourge pass from our land. Banish it to the place of distant nightmares."
"We are at war."
That cannot be allowed to happen.
All Americans must gird themselves for what's next. "We are at war." That means higher taxes. That means less freedom for journalists. That means accounts of terrible battles. That means American men and women - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends - wounded, dying, dead.
For me, the voice is one of quiet reminder. I cannot let my self forget, because to forget is to let down one's guard, to forget is to invite defeat. War is the last resort of a grievously wronged people, who have no other recourse in order to protect themselves. Time after time - in 1776, in 1861, in 1941 and now in 2001 - the Republic has called on its citizen-soldiers to defend her in time of great crisis.