What I Remember
That unforgettable morning.


My first reaction to the attack was anger — certainly against the terrorists, but also against our government. The FAA disarmed pilots in 1987. Passengers and crew were ordered to submit quietly to hijackers’ demands. In the name of safety, government banned the very thing that could have prevented the murder of thousands: the Founders’ agenda of self-help, self-defense, and gun rights.

My second thought was that our vulnerability was partly rooted in the new, multicultural understanding of religious liberty. We are instructed not to notice, and certainly not to act on, the fact that Muslims have been the leading perpetrators of terrorism since 1990. Having blinded ourselves, we cannot deal effectively with those most likely to be terrorists.

Originally, free exercise of religion was a conditional right. In the 1780 Massachusetts Bill of Rights, typical of the Founding, everyone may worship God according to “the dictates of his own conscience” — but only “provided he doth not disturb the public peace.” In the political theory of the Founding, the hijackers’ doctrine of Islamic jihad has no more right to be tolerated than a mafia plot to kill off a rival gang.

Five men per airplane, perhaps armed with nothing more than box-cutters, took terrible advantage of these self-inflicted weaknesses, both stemming from the rejection of our founding principles.

— Thomas G. West is the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tibbetts Potter Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute.