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Opinion The enemy is us: After 9/11, we turned on each other. And missed the true danger.

11:15  11 september  2021
11:15  11 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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Events in this 9/11 milestone anniversary year — especially the recent day of infamy that also lives on as digits, “1/6” — smack us in the face with evidence of just how far apart Americans have been torn since the terrorist attacks that brought us together for so brief a time.

a city with smoke coming out of it: The 9/11 attacks changed America, and the world, forever. On the 20th anniversary of the attacks, thousands will gather to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the worst attacks on U.S. soil since the Pearl Harbor attack. (Sept. 3) © AP The 9/11 attacks changed America, and the world, forever. On the 20th anniversary of the attacks, thousands will gather to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the worst attacks on U.S. soil since the Pearl Harbor attack. (Sept. 3)

How did we get from 9/11 to 1/6? From Republican and Democratic senators standing shoulder to shoulder on capitol steps singing “God Bless America” to disciples of a defeated Donald Trump storming that same capitol to disrupt the transfer of power?

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You can place much of the blame on the enemy-manufacturing that began in the debris of the Twin Towers and the wreckage of Flight 93 — Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East-based terrorist groups — and came all the way around to turn the production of enemies into a domestic affair.

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If this country has any chance against the crises befalling us in our very different world today, we can’t afford to waste more time and energy fighting each other.

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If you’re old enough, you remember where you were when the twin towers fell. And you probably recall an unusual sense of unity that swept over the American public. In almost unanimous fashion, citizens rallied around the heroism of New York’s first responders and, as polls revealed, the George W. Bush administration’s decision to go to war against an Afghan government that was harboring al-Qaeda.

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The unity didn’t last.

The administration’s next big military move — Iraq — stirred up substantial domestic opposition. But weren’t you one of the enemies if you didn’t buy the administration’s claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, if you scoffed at Bush adviser Condoleezza Rice’s insinuation that the smoking-gun proof might come in the form of a “mushroom cloud”?

After all, Bush had declared that all people and countries had to choose sides in America’s war on terror: You were with us or against us. If you were against “us,” you were against God, no less. Because the cause of freedom we were advancing at gunpoint was not merely America's gift to the world, the president proclaimed, but “God's gift to humanity.”

The manufacture of enemies between our shores had started early, of course. Before the toxic 9/11 dust had settled, some hothead Americans had decided that all Muslims were the enemy, or anyone who looked like he might be Muslim if you didn’t know better — like the turban-wearing Sikh-American Balbir Singh Sodhi, gunned down in Arizona in front of a gas station he owned four days after 9/11.

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Misinformation flourished after the attacks

Fear-mongering politicians and talk-show loudmouths warned of Sharia law supplanting the American justice system, of new “Islamic terror” plots being hatched from within as well as outside our borders.

As one malicious and bogus story went, Muslims viewing the scene from New Jersey on 9/11 cheered when the towers collapsed. A few years later, another widely circulating falsehood alleged that Barack Hussein Obama — you had to emphasize the Arab-sounding middle name — was the enemy in the Oval Office, a secret Muslim bent on tearing the country down.

Birther-in-chief Donald Trump was not the one who started the domestic production of enemies. But he rode it and amplified it on his way to becoming Obama’s successor.

Now? “Evil” is the word his staunch supporters use for the 2020 election and the Americans who don’t abide his audacious lies about voter fraud.

To those who assaulted the Capitol in January, the enemies were no longer just bad guys from other countries. They were Americans of the other political party — even Republicans who were not sufficiently devoted to Trump.

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Now we’ve seen with vivid clarity the bad place where unleashed domestic enemy-making takes us. Look at the weapons in the photos and videos from 1/6 if you need to freshen your memory. People cannot live together in a democratic society if they see themselves as warring against others with whom they share their country.

Note to my fellow citizens who live to own the libs: Heed the ancient wisdom about knowing your enemy. Know that that enemy is not me, nor other liberals and Democrats, nor Liz Cheney-style Republicans who won’t shut up about the truth of the election.

Same admonition to liberals who make all conservatives the enemy.

Let's focus on real threats

The invaders that killed more than 50 people last week while temporarily halting all flights at Newark International Airport were not terrorists driven by a different religion or supposed hatred of our freedom. They were floodwaters, running higher, faster, and more deadly because of the ways the climate is changing.

The enemies that have killed more than 650,000 Americans since March 2020 are the mutating forms of COVID-19, conspiring with science denialism and political polarization.

If it’s enemies we need, let me suggest better choices: Climate change. Current and future pandemics. Political hate and the violence it breeds. Wars on truth and accurate information. You get the idea.

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To fight the real enemies, we need as many hands on deck as possible; we need to transform as many human “enemies” as we can into real or prospective allies.

And for sure, we must close the curtain on a 9/11 period of history that has led to a surfeit of enmity and a deficit of hope.

A member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, Tom Krattenmaker writes on religion and values in public life and directs communications at Yale Divinity School. He is the author of “Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower.” Follow him on Twitter: @krattenmaker

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The enemy is us: After 9/11, we turned on each other. And missed the true danger.

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