By Danny R. Johnson – Political News Editor
WASHINGTON, DC — One enduring legacy from the terror attacks of 2001 that echoes more loudly each year is how the nation came together at a time of dire need and crisis.
That doesn’t happen anymore. This month, the Pew Research Center republished polling recalls how Americans spoke with one voice after nearly 3,000 were killed. There were equal measures of sadness and anger regardless of political affiliation. Politicians of both parties stood on the Capitol steps and sang “God Bless America.” The Senate authorized military force against Afghanistan, where al-Qaida terrorists were based, by 98-0 with two members not voting, and the House of Representatives by 420 to 1, with ten not voting. After the U.S. military was unleashed, 83% of Americans approved. Meanwhile, nearly 8 in 10 Americans displayed the flag. More than 6 in 10 felt a surge of patriotism. And there was record-high trust in the federal government and record-high approval ratings for President George W. Bush and even the news media.
These days, the United States loses the equivalent of a 9/11 attack – some 3,000 people – every second or third day to COVID-19. The disease virus has killed more than 650,000 in the United States. And yet, far from responding with one voice, Americans can’t even agree to vaccinate themselves and end this nightmare. Trust in the government, media, and President Joe Biden are at or near record lows. The result is a stew of fantastic lies percolating through social media asserting that the shots are unsafe.
This has created disproportionate suffering, with people living in low-vaccination states four times more likely to be hospitalized and over five times more likely to die.
And while the new surge in COVID-19 fueled by a frighteningly more contagious delta variant has compelled more people to receive shots, still little more than half the population is fully vaccinated, and America remains more skeptical of the vaccine than almost any other country. And polling shows a hardcore segment of the population adamantly opposed to the shots.
“It has gone from hesitation to skepticism to cynicism – and now it’s rejection,” GOP pollster Frank Luntz told the Los Angeles Times. “This is the most politicized I’ve ever seen America.”
Nor is abuse confined to vaccinations. School board meetings across the country discussing commonsense steps to require face masks in an era of contagion are becoming battlegrounds for dissident parents with fistfights in Florida, Nazi salutes in Pennsylvania, and threats of revenge in Tennessee. In Arizona, a principal was menaced by three men threatening to take her into custody with zip-tie handcuffs to enforce school health department face-mask requirements. Meanwhile, the virus spreads at higher rates in the United States than anywhere else globally, with lives and economic recovery at risk.
After the nation was attacked on 9/11, Americans came together and prevented another major terrorist event here for two decades. After the government was effectively attacked by a deadly virus the past two years, quite the opposite has unfolded.
And if that was not enough — Republicans are doing everything they can to thwart Congress’ inquiry into the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol, including by threatening to purge their party of members who participate in the select committee tasked with that investigation. America learned the lesson of unity on Sept. 11, 2001. Two decades later, Americans must learn it again if they can muster the will to do so.