Following the senseless and inhuman attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America and the world have been in shock and in grief.
There are no words to adequately express the sympathy that I or the people of the civilized world feel for the friends and families of those killed in these cowardly attacks. There are no words to adequately convey the respect and admiration that we have for the brave firefighters, police, and rescue personnel who risk their lives and health to protect us or who died in the line of duty.
There are no words to adequately describe our disgust and loathing for those creatures who planned and carried out these ungodly acts. And, there are no words to adequately describe our disappointment and revulsion in those very few pseudo-Americans who bring disgrace upon our great nation by taking out their anger upon innocent Arab-Americans.
Some say we should have been better prepared for these attacks. But, that isn't the American way. While other nations have built factories for products not yet needed, but anticipated as being needed in the future, and tried to micromanage their economy, America has always been an entrepreneurial nation. We don't like to spend a lot of time preplanning for events that might never happen, although we know we probably should plan more. We don't like to build factories that sit idle.
Americans don't tend to take action until a clear opportunity or need presents itself. But, when an opportunity or need does presents itself, Americans are quick to respond in creative ways to capitalize on opportunities or to solve problems. This is the hallmark of an entrepreneur.
Some call Americans lazy or refer to us as a "McDonald's culture." Yet, most nations throughout the world try to emulate our economic success. While a few great nations, such as India and Russia, have incorporated a growing spirit of entrepreneurship into their cultures, some other nations want economic greatness and success while trying to limit the opportunities and freedoms of their people and denying democracy and equality to all. It doesn't work that way.
Democracy, freedom, opportunity, entrepreneurship, and success go hand-in-hand. Americans tend to do what they want with their lives and that is the culture of life. As a country, we try to open up opportunity to everyone so that each person has the greatest chance of fulfilling personal ambitions, dreams, and a uniquely satisfying life. That is the underlying strength of our country. What we ask most of citizens is that they actively pursue their dreams.
The people who are most critical of America usually promote and live in a culture of repression and failure. A culture and worldview that tries to restrict the lives and opportunities of various members of its society.
A bright friend once told me that he thought democracy and capitalism would spread throughout the world despite the best efforts of regimes opposed to it. He argued that modern communication was too strong. Modern communication clearly shows the entire world the freedoms and financial success that Americans and people of other modern democratic and entrepreneurial countries have. When ambitious, but oppressed, people see just what can be with their lives, they are unlikely to remain dormant to a regime that opposes their personal growth and offers them only poverty. A repressive culture or regime always wants to restrict access to outside news.
It is unsurprising that such a horrendous act of terror would originate from an isolated country such as Afghanistan led by a backward regime such as the Taliban, which is notorious for its repression of women, Christianity, and Judaism. All the Taliban has to offer its people is a cult of death. And, in the end, life always beats death.
While we are in shock, as President Bush advised, we must get back to work. We must carry on with our business. Four days of absorbing expenses without earning any revenue has cost the airlines billions of dollars. Billions more might well be lost to the airlines if members of the world become afraid to fly. It's amazing to realize how valuable every business day and every ounce of public goodwill toward an industry is.
Business owners should stop and calculate how many days of being closed it would take to eliminate profitability and push them into losses. For most businesses, it's not that many. Business, like life, demands activity. Revenue is the lifeblood of business.
It's easy to overlook just how important each individual's economic contribution to society is. It's only when we see an entire industry shut down that we see the huge overall contribution each individual makes, both as a producer and as a consumer.
While there is a tendency for people to wring their hands and wonder what they can do to help America recover from this tragedy, I'm a fan of Stephen Covey's philosophy of concentrating upon your circle of influence, even if your circle of concern is far greater.
Few of us will have an active role in bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice. Few of us will have an active role in building future anti-terrorist measures into our society. Few of us will be able to offer direct comfort to the people most adversely affected by this attack. Yet, there is a tremendous amount we can do.
In addition to contributing to the American Red Cross and other legitimate organizations that are positioned to help, we can remain producers and consumers. We can continue to work hard, and we can continue to buy. Amazingly enough, that is a serious personal strike against anyone who opposes world democracy and capitalism.