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. Amber Pawlik

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Atlas Shot

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 different.  

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 rationality.  

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 was Shot."  

Amber Pawlik
September 13, 2001

Islam on Trial: The Prosecution’s Case
Amber Pawlik
An article that argues that the violent ideology of Islam is the root of Islamic terrorism. Until we challenge Islam ideologically, Islamic terrorism will not be defeated. It includes a statistical study of the Koran which found over 50% of it is hatred of infidels. 16 pages long.

This article is protected under the US Copyright Act of 1976. No part may be copied.

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