So long ago, and yet so near
According to a Gallup Poll released this week, “Americans’ trust in the federal government to handle international problems has fallen to a record-low 43 percent, ... Separately, 40 percent of Americans say they have a ‘great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems, also the lowest Gallup has measured to date.” (Poll conducted September 4-7, 2014, with 1,017 adults, 95 percent confidence level, +/- 4 points).
In addition to being the lowest level reported by Gallup, “The level of trust in the government to handle both domestic and international matters is nearly half what it was at the high point Gallup measured, shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. In October 2001, 83 percent trusted the government’s ability to deal with international problems, and 77 percent trusted its ability to handle domestic ones.”
Thirteen years ago, while passing a television that was playing without sound where I was working out, I saw a video showing a plane crashing into a building. Initially, I thought that it was an errant, small, private plane that had lost control and accidentally hit a building. Half an hour later, I learned that it had been a deliberate attack.
As the mother of a 23-month-old girl and a 6-week-old boy, I fled home to check on my children, every protective instinct aroused, to hold my children and watch the terrible story unfold with the rest of the nation.
As a nation, many of us were shocked, worried, nervous and troubled as the news unfolded about who deliberately attacked our country. These attackers had used commercial airliners as weapons to kill civilians. Our attackers had lived for months and even years in our country, plotting to kill us even as they coexisted with us. Their goal was not only to cause destruction but to spread terror: to make us afraid. They were determined to destroy us and our way of life.
Today, al-Qaida has been muscled out of the headlines by the radical Islamist organization Islam- ic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Its name may be different, but its goal remains the same: an Islamic civilization unified under a caliphate.
On the night of Sept. 20, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Americans from the well of the House of Representatives. While identifying the enemy as radical Islamists, Bush carefully distinguished them from the hundreds of millions of Muslims who practice their faith in peace.
His speech at such a crucial time — nine days after America had been attacked, while the rubble at the World Trade Center site still smoldered — reassured the nation when we needed it most.
This week, President Barack Obama will lay out his strategy to defeat radical ISIS. “The next phase is now to start going on some offense,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We have to get an Iraqi government in place. And I’m optimistic that, next week, we should be able to get that done. And I will then meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I’ll make a speech and describe what our game plan’s going to be going forward.
“But this is not going to be an announcement about U.S. ground troops. This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war. What this is is similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.”
In 1979, I turned 13 the month that 52 American diplomats and citizens were taken hostage in Iran during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. They were held for 444 days and released moments after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.
Today, my daughter — who was a toddler at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks — is a freshman in high school, and my infant boy is in 7th grade, the age I was when the Americans were taken hostage in Iran.
They face a future clouded by more than terrorism — against which we still have no coherent strategy. As a nation, we are more in debt and have a lower percentage of people in the workforce.
We can and we must do better — for the sake of our children — who are soon to become adults.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www. creators.com.