Before the average person is willing to actually kill someone, they will dehumanize them. As one very extreme example, the Nazis demonized Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and Slavs before starting their killing machine. But it happens in every war to some degree. In our own history, Americans called American Indians "savages" and our Asian enemies "Gooks". Dehumanizing is a horrifying first step in war and terrorism.
Our nation has been at war for nearly ten years and it is no surprise that we try to demonize our enemies. Many in our country sadly aid these enemies by misidentifying them. Islam is not our enemy any more than Catholicism was the enemy of Britain during the IRA terrorist bombing campaigns.
Our enemies are criminal terrorists who felt the world was not paying their nasty, extremist cult version of Islam enough attention. They hoped to incite the Muslim world into rising up and joining them through mass slaughter and incurring the wrath and violence of the United States. They succeeded in the wrath part but clearly did not succeed in their primary goal of all Islam joining their cult of hate and subjugation.
No less than Christianity, Islam is a rich and varied religion. Just as in Christianity, some fringe cults can grow toxic and extreme. The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 do not represent Islam. Far better representatives of Islam are the over 100 Muslims who died at work in the towers that day. No one need apologize for Islam.
All these years of war are having a toxic effect on our own American Society. The same toxic poison that infected America during the Vietnam War is infecting our nation again. A propensity to violence, a devaluing of others, even our own citizens, and a decided lack of empathy are decaying our society. It is not just the current hysteria over a NYC mosque and community center but also our vastly skewed government budgets. Billions for a Defense Budget that neglects medical care for troops and their families while preserving enough nuclear weapons to destroy earth several times over. The poison shows in our declining healthcare system where hysteria against providing healthcare for all runs rampant.
The current hostility toward government isn't about a rebirth of "Marxism" or a "Federal take over" of government. It is about ten years of war. It is about a growing frustration that all the death and destruction was for little. It is about a growing realization that our society may have paid too high a price for too little.
The Vietnam War actually sowed seeds that grew into the West's victory in the Cold War without a nuclear war. American society was so traumatized that it took a generation and an attack on our homeland to incite Americans to war. The US military was so deeply troubled that it was transformed from top to bottom. A new generation of military completely rebuilt the services. The new thinking and attitudes resulted in a formidable fighting force seen as unbeatable. War was not a viable option for our enemies.
What was and is a viable option is random acts of violence. During the Reagan Administration many believed that powerless groups frustrated at their inability to compete in the marketplace of ideas or blaming the US for their perceived injustices would launch attacks against this country. Their goal was and is to seek attention and to project an appearance of power. That it took so long to happen is a testament to both our nation's ideals and our power.
As during the Vietnam Era, service to country is denigrated by many. Government is seen by many as ineffective and by others as dangerous. Even if those views are justified, the wrong answer is to denigrate public service. The right answer is to encourage our best and brightest to become part of public service and government. The right answer is to join in the transformation of our government. To help redirect and rebuild our nation not to abandon it.
The Vietnam conflict is far, far different from today's wars. What is not different is the highly toxic effect that war has on a nation and its people.