By Joe Brancatelli
September 9, 2010 -- Nine years after 9/11, this is where we stand:
     A lunatic "pastor" in Florida with a flock numbering in the low dozens wants to burn the Koran and generates worldwide publicity for his insanity.
     A cabal of know-nothings rail unendingly against the "Ground Zero mosque" in New York, even though the project is not a mosque and isn't even at Ground Zero.
     The real Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood, is still essentially a hole in the ground. Construction has started on a few projects, but, mostly, it remains empty, a prisoner of politics and ego and silliness.
     The Transportation Security Administration is rushing "whole body image" machines to airport checkpoints across the country. We already go shoeless, hatless and beltless through security, our laptops and our toiletries exposed for all to see. And now we, too, will be exposed, bombarded with radiation and electronically naked for screeners in a little box to ogle.

This makes me sad. It is the Jewish New Year, the holiest time on their calendar. It is Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan, the holiest period on their calendar. And I am in despair.

Nine years after 9/11, it is hard to avoid a bitter conclusion: We have lost the war. Not the Global War on Terrorism. That was never a war and terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.

No, we have lost a much more important fight: The War With Ourselves. We have given in to the worst demons of our national nature.

We were challenged by unspeakable horrors on September 11, 2001. And we have responded with idiot pastors who want to burn books and bigots who spread lies and fear. We have been paralyzed into inaction and handed our legitimate security needs to a pack of pettifogging bureaucrats.

And we have turned our public discourse over to men like Newt Gingrich, an educator, an historian, a supposed scholar, who says things like: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."

Since when, Mr. Gingrich, do we define our country by what they do in other lands? How does religious intolerance somewhere else require us to be as ignorant and intolerant as the corrupt, hypocritical sheiks who run Saudi Arabia?

This is America, not Saudi Arabia. I don't want what sheiks do in their house of sand and oil to set my country's policies. If Gingrich believes what he says, then he should shut his mouth forever more. If he doesn't believe what he says, then he is worse than a charlatan. He is an intellectual terrorist and unfit for any office. No media organization should ever give him a platform again.

What have we done to ourselves in the nine years since 9/11? Have we become so frightened and so weak that we believe our reaction to terrorists should be to adopt the mentality and the tactics of the terrorists? How is that victory?

Somewhere in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama bin Laden must be laughing. He may be on the run and unable to show his face. But we in America have embraced the rhetoric of his perversions. He has gotten his wish. He has turned us against each other.

My first column when JoeSentMe launched two weeks after 9/11 talked about this. Then, it seemed like the craziness was limited to the airports and the aircraft we needed to use.

I made a simple statement: "As Americans, we need to rise up against the cowards and traitors among us. We need to take our planes back from the hijackers and we need to take our skies back from the bigots before they destroy us."

I expressed what I thought was a self-evident truth: "We are not tribal. We share no common race or creed or ethnicity or culture. All we have is our diversity--and our allegiance to a set of beliefs. We are free only because we are all free. We are equal only because we are all equal. We are Americans only because we say we are."

I really did not know that there were people who said they were Americans, but were ready to burn someone else's holy book. I really didn't know there were people who called themselves Americans, but were prepared to stigmatize other Americans and try to deny them the rights we are supposedly fighting to protect.

I just didn't know we were this weak and this frightened and so willing to throw away what we've built.

How did we come to this? Why did we come to this? And how are we going to save ourselves from the cowards and traitors among us who are so much more dangerous than the bad guys with guns and bombs?

Nine years after September 11, this is not what I thought we would still be talking about. It is not what we should be talking about on the Jewish New Year and the Eid.

ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

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This column is Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.