Fear is real, and many Americans revisited that fear over the weekend. Those of us who watched from 2,000 miles away as countless lives were mysteriously snuffed out in an hour and half remembered that sweaty-palmed, open-mouthed awe, that gripping horror, that complete lack of understanding that accompanies an event as rare as this.

Over the course of a few days, that fear manifested itself as rage. Country songs preached the swift boot of revenge. Co-workers, friends and family members said venomous things in those weeks that would make them blush today. Two days ago, our Signpost editorial staff wrote about the sudden intolerance of American Muslims that sprang up after the bombings, an intolerance that unfortunately led to more than 300 hate crimes in three and a half months.

We’ve cured some of the symptoms of that day, fortunately, but many of us feel a tickle on the back of the neck every time we see a pillar of smoke, or the lights of an ambulance. We gasp at the sight of a low-flying plane. These fears are normal, and they will never be completely trained out of our generation.

But these fears are also, admittedly, irrational. Our highly skilled soldiers and our government work far beyond our comprehension to stave off another day like that one. Could a stray arrow possibly slip through a chink in our armor? Yes, it is possible. Nevertheless, because of the dedication of brave men and women, we can sleep safely at night, letting them worry about a small number of misguided and violent men on the other half of the planet while we worry about our half.

The beginning of the “War on Terror” marked a new age for Americans, but the conflict’s title seems, in hindsight, a tad ironic. What do we still fear? More importantly, are our fears pointed in the right direction? If the compasses of our fear were working properly, they would shift their focus from the Middle East and spin to point toward. . .

. . .extremists of all religions, races, cultures and creeds.

. . .news analysts who exploit fear for a gain in popularity.

. . .a Congress that worries too much about who will get mad at them if they finally break down and agree with someone.

. . .those who see forgiveness as a weakness.

. . .a horrific war raging just south of our border, where cartels and other bullies wreak havoc on the lives of thousands of civilians.

. . .men and women who mask their hatred and intolerance with patriotism, who complain at the loss of their freedoms but encourage a stiff suspicion of those whom they do not understand.

. . .anyone who justifies hating a person or group of people because of conflicting beliefs, whether they be Christians hating Muslims, or liberals hating conservatives, or Jazz fans hating Kobe Bryant.

We do not need fear. Caution? Yes, and a tolerance for all people without a tolerance for the unjust actions of a few. We can foster a love for all mankind. We can operate under the assumption that most people are good people. We can remove the word “hate” from our vocabulary. We can emerge from our bunkers and look around for those who need our help.

At present, there is no definitive end to the “War on Terror,” nor is there one to the war on fear, but it is our hope that someday, we will hang a “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner from a great height, and at least one of those wars will be over.

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