From the Audacity of Hope to Hopelessness

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have hesitated for some time to join the ranks of the Obama-disenchanted, if only to avoid giving the Republicans more fuel. But I also believed in President Obama and in his message of new beginnings. He had the audacity to speak about hope and oh, how we needed to feel hopeful as we closed down the nightmare years of the Bush/Cheney regime. Like so many others, I have kept my eyes posted on the horizon awaiting signs indicating that this new era of change is dawning, but so far, as I greet the same familiar sun, I find myself ever more disenchanted and fast running out of hope. The uproar around the failed airline terrorist and the subsequent political hysterics finally shifted me from dwelling in the "audacity of hope" to realizing I actually am feeling the rage of the hopeless.

I have supplied myself with an endless list of reasons, if not excuses, for why the Obama administration has made many of its reckless decisions, like advancing the war in Afghanistan while nations like China are investing in Afghanistan's resources, but the response to Umar Faruk Abdulmatallab really has me baffled. I mean from where I'm sitting, it appears that this punk Nigerian kid has managed to effect more policy change so far as national security goes in a handful of days than our Congress has accomplished in, oh, months, or perhaps years, of ineffectual border control legislation. Quite frankly, Abdulmatallab's attempt at blowing up an airplane does not alarm me nearly as much as the response from our nation's leadership, which, at best, reveals an administration and Congress that is confused and panic-driven.

And at worst, as an American, I am more than uncomfortable that the Civil War politics of this nation (and let's face it, that's exactly what we have going between the Republicans and the Democrats -- a Civil War), have given the Republicans and now some Democrats reasons to exaggerate this issue to such an extent that this one incident now carries enough weight to influence military policy decisions. Exactly who is in charge of policy decisions in this nation -- the administration or a single would-be terrorist bomber?

Consider that as a result of this one punk Nigerian would-be terrorist bomber, airline travel in this nation has become even more unbearable. It's our rights that are getting revoked, not the terrorist's. Within days of this guy's failed attempt to blow up an airplane, all Americans now have lost even more rights -- such as they are -- on airplane flights. According to new regulations, passengers will not be allowed to use their coats to cover themselves if they are cold; they will not be allowed to use the facilities one hour prior to landing; they may not be able to open the overhead lockers and I heard one discussion that books may even be banned -- books!

I can only imagine the reaction terrorist organizations are having to this type of response from our nation's security system. Imagine this conversation: "If all it takes is one young man with a finger nail polish remover bomb to create such havoc in this country, much less wipe out yet another handful of American rights and freedoms, what have we got to lose by sending one attempted suicide bomber onto a plane after another? America can be controlled like a frightened child. It's far too easy to scare this nation now. The leadership and its Congress is fractured. America is too frightened to win." I have no problem imagining a dialogue along those lines somewhere in the Middle East.

Am I suggesting that we don't respond to a terrorist attempt? Of course not -- but the issue is how a nation responds. Abdulmutallab got through security systems; so do what is essential to heighten the security to make sure that it won't happen again. But is it necessary to shame the nation publicly in the process? Is it necessary to give this one would-be terrorist so much attention that in effect we have to say he succeeded because he has, in fact, raised the terrorism level in this entire nation? He may not have blown up an airplane but he most certainly has turned our nation up-side-down. We have to realize that we are empowering terrorists by our outrageous, if not out of control, response to them.

The Bush/Cheney regime has tragically guaranteed that we will live in a climate of terrorism for years to come, if not decades. We can count on Abdulmatallab's not being the last person to attempt to board a plane with the intention of blowing it up. Common sense tells us that in a world gone mad with terrorism, there is little hope that bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen -- should that idiocy start -- will inspire an end to terrorist attacks or suicide missions. We have entered an age of madness but we can't afford to respond to this madness by having a president admit we were unprepared and by having fellow Congressmen attack the policies of the nation before the rest of the world -- followed by the disintegration of more American rights and freedoms. How does taking away our freedoms improve our safety? We are giving the terrorists exactly what they want by doing this. Even if the bomb did not explode on that airplane, they still got what they wanted because in the end, it is the terrorists who are causing America to change its way of life -- not Americans. Is this going to continue until we Americans have to apply for the right to travel on an airplane, producing documents proving we have a legitimate reason to leave one location and go to another? That could happen in a nation that is losing a grip on itself.

Until we get a grip on ourselves, any chance of getting out of the madness of this era of terrorism is hopeless.