America today lives with a cultivated sense of victimhood. That is the legacy of 9/11. It fills us with anxieties. It warps our self-image. It distorts our foreign relations. It is self-perpetuating. Yet we need it. Too many benefit -- politically or materially or psychologically. Too many are emotionally dependent on it. Too few have the courage to confront the culture that has grown around the idea of America the victim. The price we pay -- in all currencies -- mounts.
The trauma exposed America's vulnerability to attack. That is obvious. More profound was its exposure of how fragile is the nation's psyche when America's exceptional security and freedom from the events that bedevil ordinary countries is called into question. We couldn't handle it. So we have absorbed it and made it part of our collective consciousness. The consequences are pernicious.
Above all, Americans have found a renewed purpose in our dealings with the world that is unhealthy. Summed up in the catch phrase "global war on terror," it is a convenient ordering principle. Convenient intellectually since we are spared the bother of figuring out who exactly out there wants to do us harm -- and why. It conjures a suitably stereotypical image of the "threat" -- an Islamic jihadist, bearded & turbaned -- who hates us for being who we are. His methods are diabolical, lending an aura of alien malice to our free floating dread. That gives emotions the upper hand over thinking.