The war on terrorism has entered its shopping phase.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent economic stumble, a new battle cry has emerged from public leaders -“Spend!” Demand for all products, and not just airlines, has dropped, pulling markets and employment levels downward. Consumer confidence is crumbling, and everyone in government – from municipal lackey to commander in chief – is getting the message out. They need our support, and so we must buy things whenever possible.

I understand that the strikes were a new form of attacks against the United States, which in turn create new problems for the country. Yes, the terrorists had intended to destroy the normal routine of everyday American life. Therefore, we must return to normal. However, why does a return to normalcy translate into a patriotic duty to buy goods, services, airline tickets and all the rest? Washington and the media exhort us to bulwark the country’s economy as a national duty, not through sacrifice or saving, but through spendthrift.

So if I buy something, I aid my country. I aid my country? That doesn’t feel or sound right. So my country’s been attacked – I should fly to Florida? Our national security has been compromised – time for Best Buy? Apparently, war is approaching, and I need a DVD player.

Around the country, this point is emphasized. Six state governors visited Manhattan last week, saw a show and promoted the city’s lagging businesses. Former presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton have flown around the country on commercial airliners to bolster confidence in that flagging industry. CNN and other media outlets have jumped in as well, telling the story of planeloads of Oregonians landing in New York to assist through tourism.

There are plenty of reasons behind this push for spending. There’s an economic logic. Spending goes up, production goes up, economy improves. Neat and clean. At the same time, economic logic doesn’t inspire anyone or anything. No one rises above their own petty concerns to aid fellow human beings because of a supply curve. Do market forces drive compassion and change? Of course not.

But the blood has been donated. The professionals are in New York, digging through the rubble. The military is marshalling forces in and around Central Asia. This is the greatest crisis the U.S. has faced in our lifetimes, and the only way left to help the country is to boost consumer confidence. Something is left wanting there.

We buy things every day, so where’s the sacrifice? In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, analysts from left to right compared this tragedy to the attack on Pearl Harbor. But there is no draft. There is no shortage of scrap iron, no Victory Gardens, no real sacrifice we have to make besides inconvenience.

I guess the rules have changed since 1941. Our world is far different than that of any other conflict, and our war is far different than any other experienced. There is no Rosie the Riveter here and no GI Joe either. They’re at the mall, accruing credit card debt for national unity.

Welcome to the new American patriotism.

Slowly Losing My Mind appears every other Friday in The Hoya. The author can be reaced at relihanthehoya.com

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