We are on the eve of the ten year anniverary of September 11, 2001, the day a series of coordinated attacks by Islamist extremists resulted in the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans.
America is a different place than it was on September 10, 2001, more alert, less trusting, more security conscious, less at ease. And not just in obvious arenas like transportation, but in general: "If THAT could happen, anything could happen."
The country has changed in other, less obvious ways, also. 2012 prophesies are taken much more seriously than they would have otherwise been. Again, "If THAT could happen, anything could happen."
Compassionate but steely resolve is very much in, and testosterone has made a comeback from the harsh realm of “brutish Neanderthalism” to the more temperate “manly determination.” In times of crisis the ability to actually DO things rather than eloquently and sophistically discuss them (read “Clinton,” unfairly or not) comes to the fore.
The ability to fix, move, and build things, protect people and property, endure harsh conditions, etc., all become critical when the system breaks down, when nature exposes her ugly side, when violence breaks out of the acceptable zone.
Then the things that Bill Clinton and I are good at don't matter very much because they are nonessential: they don't help us survive, they merely make surviving more interesting, and "interesting" isn't all that important when life and liberty are threatened.
Shows like Man vs Wild, Dual Survival, Man Woman Wild, One Man Army, Top Shot, even American Restoration, and their ilk celebrate practical knowledge and skills extremely valuable if and when civilization breaks down; which, we now realize, can happen at any time, precipitated by any number of natural, man made, or even extraterrestrial catastrophes.
I think many of us thought we'd have a better handle on the ramifications of 9/11 by now. Even after ten years, the wound feels fresh and angry, and events that at first seemed decisive — the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example — offer ambivalence now.
And who could have imagined it would take until 2011 for the U.S. to finally eradicate the vicious pustule Osama bin Laden? A bit of revenge served so cold as to take the form of a popsicle, sweet but runny and ultimately unsubstantial. Yes, we got him, but how could it have taken SO LONG?
Nevertheless, we did finally get him. Our current wariness, though inconvenient and depressing, has helped prevent subsequent attacks, we think.
And that is perhaps the underlying source of our unease: is it really that our security measures and public wariness have prevented subsequent large scale attacks, or is it just that no one has tried hard enough, yet? We can't live our lives waiting for another shoe to drop, but this anniversary, reminds us that it hasn't.