At 21, when Ayn Rand came to America after leaving Communist
Russia, the first thing she saw was the New York City skyline. Her excitement
upon seeing the awe-inspiring site overwhelmed her. The New York skyline
represented everything that is great about America—with its buildings and
skyscrapers, extending into what seems like infinity, housing some of the
greatest businesses and most rational, productive people in the world. Its
awesome site, with the crisp, clear shapes of all the buildings, boasts to the
world man's dominance over nature. Each building of the New York skyline stands
on its own: proud, sturdy and a little defiant, despite their enormous height.
The New York skyline in contrast to the filth and poverty in the former USSR
boldly drew the distinction between what is good and what is evil. The NYC
skyline is the most prominent symbol of everything that is great about America.
I also just recently turned 21 and on Tuesday, September 11,
2001, the New York skyline had its greatest buildings, the twin towers of The
World Trade Center, attacked in what eventually led to their collapse.
Suspected terrorists destroyed the greatest symbol of American values in a
matter of a few hours. At 21, Ayn, by looking at the New York City skyline saw
everything that is good in the world. At 21, I, by looking at the New York city
skyline, now see everything that is evil.
Never has the distinction between good and evil been so
dramatically drawn than in the attack on the World Trade Center.
In her classic novel, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
creates a story in which the men of the mind, the best humans of the world
comparable in our society only to Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, or Bill
Gates, go on strike due to the harsh treatment that society gives them. Damned
greedy, immoral, and evil, the men of the mind say "Fine. Then live
without us." The world, without them, quickly turns to chaos.
The World Trade Center housed some of the world's best, most
rational minds. The WTC didn't just have thousands of people; it had thousands
of the movers and the shakers of the world. That is, they were the Atlas of the
world—those who held it up. On September 11, 2001, instead of voluntarily
deciding to shrug their responsibility as the movers of the world; they were
viciously attacked by barbaric terrorists, some injured, some killed. Like the
outcome in Atlas Shrugged, it is predicted that this attack of terrorism
will catalyze the American economy into a recession. The results of Atlas
Shrugging and Atlas being Shot are the same, the world is left in a state of
desperation, but the means and moral implications of both are very, very
The NYC skyline represents everything that is good in the
world. It is the height of humans using rationality to build something that is
truly great. The NYC skyline was built by people entering business for themselves,
driven by their own desire for profit. Because of their desire for profit and
the free-market, they built businesses which served to improve the standard of
life for all of human kind. Inside the buildings were people thinking of ways
to do things better, faster, cheaper which in the end help everyone in a,
win-win situation. Before freedom was established, human genius didn't go into
building businesses which help all of human life, but into building monuments
such as the Taj Mahal or the pyramids of Egypt which serve nothing except to
honor the king who ordered his people to build them. The free-market directs
people's natural desire for profit to improve mankind. The NYC skyline embodies
all the values, rationality, the pursuit of happiness (selfishness), and freedom,
that make America great.
The terrorists who demolished the World Trade Center
represent everything that is evil. The terrorists are the very antithesis of
the NYC skyline. Instead of using rationality to build something great, they
used force to destroy something once great. Instead of being driven by their
own happiness or profit, the terrorists were driven by some higher cause and
took their own life in their kamikaze attack. Instead of being individuals who
stand on their own; the terrorists viewed themselves as expendable pawns, on
earth to die for whatever collective tribe, organization, government, or
religious organization they belonged to. Individual men driven by profit motive
under the system of the free-market built the WTC; a collective group of
irrational men driven by kamikaze altruism destroyed it. The businessmen stood
for freedom and capitalism; the terrorists for tyranny. I repeat: never before
has the distinction between good and evil been so distinct.
The picture we have all seen of the tragic event speaks for
itself in distinguishing between good and evil. The picture is of the 2nd plane
attacking one of the towers of the WTC. There the building stood; strong and
unyielding in its integrity, and coming at it is the kamikaze plane, in its
irrational fury, to destroy it. Inside the building were rational men at work,
driven by their own desire for profit, using their mind to create wealth which
will go on to improve human life. On the plane were irrational men at work,
driven by altruism, using force to destroy both wealth and human life. That
picture, with the WTC thrust into the sky and the plane coming at it like a big
ball of fury distinctly draws the line between good and evil. It is the
difference between the civilized and the uncivilized; the rational and the
irrational; what is good and what is evil. Unfortunately, in this case, evil
succeeded; the WTC collapsed and the death toll is yet to be determined.
Evil may have won for the time being, but it does not have
to have the final say. Evil does not have to prevail so as long as American's
keep to another value that makes us great: justice. If we refuse to condemn
evil; we condone it. If we don't take action now; evil will win. There is no
dichotomy between justice and rationality. In their smear campaign against
those who support justice, bleeding hearts have been calling those who support
retaliation of some form, up to and including war, "blood thirsty
warmongers out to get vengeance." There is a difference between justice
and vengeance. Justice is rational; vengeance is emotional. Justice is finding
out who did it, taking proper legislative action, and seeking out an
appropriate punishment. Vengeance is taking action right away, bombing whatever
country we think might have done it, and ignoring all legislative processes.
However, just like being emotional and bombing whoever we want is wrong, not
doing anything at all is also emotional and wrong. Rationality does *not* mean
to not do anything at all, letting a killer or terrorist go without punishment.
Rationality does not mean to be "peaceful" and not seek out
"punishment" (read: kill) those who killed thousands on September 11,
2001. This unwillingness to punish also has at its core raw emotion, not
The barometer of what an appropriate punishment would be is
dependent upon who is responsible. If it were a private militia, private
actions with private courts deciding their punishment is appropriate. If an
entire government were responsible, war is the appropriate action. Private
courts are not possible on the national level when one country attacks another.
There is no world government to settle disputes among nations in the same way
there is a government to settle disputes among individual men (nor should there
be). If we go to war, yes innocent lives will be killed. This is not to be
taken lightly, but there is no such thing as a perfect solution in which we can
go through and only get those who are responsible. Those who are responsible
will be hiding under the guise of those who are not responsible. War is a dirty
deed, but American security is not something to joke around with.
The dramatic distinction between good and evil has never
been so vivid. Instead of Atlas shrugging, Atlas was shot. Ayn Rand, at my age,
got to look at the NYC skyline with reverence to what is awesome and good in
the world; I now look at what was the NYC skyline and am reminded of what is
horrific and evil. The buildings of the NYC skyline stood for everything that
is good in the world. The planes that flew into them stood for everything that is
evil. Unfortunately, evil succeeded in this particular mission. However, evil
won't prevail if Americans stick to the value that promotes the good and
condemns the evil: justice.
I have grappled with a name to title the tragic day that
shook the world. Newscasters are calling it an "Attack on America."
It is a little more than that; it was an attack on American values. The
terrorists, outraged at America's success, and the values that made her
successful, imposed upon us their horrors. It wasn't just an attack on the
thousands of people in the building, but a symbolic ideological attack on our
values. A more appropriate title for the tragedy is "The Day that Atlas
September 13, 2001