Since September 11, 2001, fear has been the main engine of change in the United States. Who would have thought that across the US, where people boast that it is the home of the free and the land of the brave, people would gladly surrender their freedom and liberty because they so fear terrorism?
Who would have thought that the US would allow, much less pay for, the National Security Agency to intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other communications – every single day – and pay for 30,000 people to listen in on phone conversations in the name of fighting the fear of terrorism?
Who would have thought that people across New York City, where people are proud of their diversity, would fear construction of a mosque and community center downtown?
Who would have thought that people across the US, where people argue that they helped bring down the wall that separated East and West Germany, would so fear their neighbors to the South that they support construction of a wall of separation with Mexico?
Who would have thought that some of the highest lawyers in the land would write memos illegally authorizing the torture of people in the name of making the US safe?
Who would have thought that Democrats would compete with Republicans to try to keep the globally shameful Guantanamo prison open so that people inside the US would not have to fear having living near prisons with alleged terrorists in them?
Who would have thought that people in New York City, a place where people admire their own toughness, would fear having criminal trials of alleged terrorists in their city?
Who would have thought that in the US, where people take pride in the constitutional independence of the judiciary, those judges would turn down the case of Maher Arar, who was captured in the US and flown out to a Syrian prison to be tortured, because they fear that even looking at the case would interfere with national security?
Who would have thought that the people of the US would fear to have Uighurs, members of persecuted ethnic minority who struggled for their freedoms against China, allowed to live even temporarily in the US?
Who would have thought that the people of the US would so fear the possibility of the Taliban ruling Afghanistan and the false possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that we would send our sons and daughters to die by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Who would have thought that there once was a US president who said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”?
You tell me what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave since September 11, 2001.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org