There is a saying that every problem comes bearing its own solution. I think the heartbreak of September 11—America's grief not only over the loss of life but also the loss of our own innocence—has expanded us as people because it has tenderized our hearts. On a psychological level, the American people have matured as a result of that awful day. While the event itself was excruciatingly painful, it has made us more emotionally sober. It has reminded us not only of the vulnerability of life but of the vulnerability of our country and of how much we truly love it.
Americans are good with to-do lists; just tell us what to do and we'll do it. Throughout our history, we have proven that. Colonize. Check. Win our independence. Check. Form a union. Check. Expand to the Pacific. Check. Settle the West. Check. Keep the Union together. Check. Industrialize. Check. Fight the Nazis. Check. Land a man on the moon. Check. And the list goes on.
But all of sudden, we are confronted by a problem proving even more challenging to solve. While German and Japanese forces during World War II could be likened to malignant tumors that could be—and were—successfully surgically removed, the current terrorist phenomenon is more like a cancer that has already metastasized. Some of it is hidden behind healthy organs in the form of spider tumors one can only assault at the risk of endangering the healthy organs they are hiding behind. Invasive measures bring mixed results.
There's simply not a to-do list for annihilating all the problems we have now; they're more complicated than anything mere action alone can solve. We are called not simply to do something different now, but to be something different.
And that is where each and every one of us comes in.