This week, my father sent me a letter that included these thoughts:
"There will be better days ahead. We cannot see them right now, but there will be. I have seen rough times with World War II (I couldn't get the pedal car I wanted as a child because of the steel going into the war effort -- that's all I remember about WW II), the nuclear threat in the '50s where the news every night showed a big clock at so many minutes until Midnight -- with Midnight of course being nuclear war with Russia.Alongside these thoughts, my father added that our country has been unique in the world because our current generations (and even prior ones) have not seen evil on a large scale on our own land. This made me realize how naive we'd become because the world's many evils never seemed to touch us. We believed that our strong but little world of 280 million people (out of more than 6 billion) was somehow protected from all the evil that plagues much the rest of the world.
"The '60s was Vietnam and we were fighting each other on the campuses and in the cities and having body counts from Vietnam every night on TV: 342 killed today. 268 killed today. 470 killed today. Every day. What a dark, dark time that was in our history. How this country has endured, though...."
In hindsight, it's unbelievable how confident we were. We let our pilots fly commercial jumbo jets with flimsy cockpit doors that anyone could open. And we allowed knives on planes.
But at the same time, we were, and we remain, free.
Most of the people sharing our planet live under despotic leaders, or unfair and corrupt governments with only their own interests in mind. And even more of the world's people live with continual hunger. A majority of all people end each day hungry. Try ending just one night hungry. Try sleeping with your stomach growling.
Even in our country, millions end each day hungry. We can't change that or the world's many other heartaches with this column. So that isn't our point today.
The point is to share the belief that this country will rebound much stronger from last month's attacks. We will do so partly because this is an amazing place in the world -- a place of freedom; a place of caring people; a place of government that is actually working to improve the lives of citizens; a place of enormous innovation and opportunity; a place of fairly elected government even when elections drag on mistakenly for months; a place that not all the world understands or loves, but that more and more of the world is siding with in the struggle for equality and justice everywhere on earth.
And, ironically, the attacks of last month are going to make the world more united and stronger than it has ever been before. That is my belief.
Leaders of the world's nations are suddenly working together in more ways than they have perhaps since World War II. Russia may become a close ally again, and meanwhile the U.S. is forming other new alliances, lifting trade sanctions, and starting conversations with dozens of other nations.
After extremist organizations with violent practices are put under lock and key or destroyed, most of these new alliances should shift to focus on business and government. How can we help each other become stronger? How can we spread and ensure freedom, peaceful society, and free trade? The victims of September 11 cannot die in vain. The opportunity arising after the attacks is an opportunity to change the world for the better in vast and lasting ways.
There is a task at hand right now: Stop extremist groups who espouse violence. Once the world's collective countries put these groups to bed, the effort to keep them there will be ongoing, which means sticking together. That should mean lasting alliances that start to span all aspects of life. This should lead to a strong world coalition (you're either part of it or you're left out) and, eventually, a strong world economy -- with governments that are fair, industries that reach more people, and people everywhere that are free.
This is our opportunity.
The world has long been moving toward a world economy and a unified voice. Look at the United Nations. Look at the European Union. The world is getting smaller. Many people fear this, but it is inevitable, so we should work to make the very best of it. (Don't fret -- there will always be remote areas that you can run away to at times, leaving globalization behind.) These attacks should move us much more quickly toward a world that works together -- a world that recognizes that we're all in this together. As a world society, we improve or we degrade together.
No country is safe from tyranny without other countries to aid it and help keep it safe.
Much as no country is safe from pollution unless all countries work to stem it.
There is more uncertainty ahead the next several months -- and the potential for more extremist attacks. But the prognosis for the years ahead may be better now than ever. The world is ready to work together. The U.S. is returning to life. (On the way to work each day, I pass between the Pentagon and what was an empty Reagan National Airport until just yesterday as planes finally flew from the capital's airport again, people in cars waving proudly to them in the sky.) We won't let the victims die in vain. We'll honor them with world improvements. The history books could mark the attacks as the end of a world divided unto itself by circumstantial differences, and the start of a world coalition working together toward better lives for all. That is our opportunity to seize; that is the opportunity unfolding before us.
We've been buying stock both in this portfolio and in the Drip Port, as we wrote nearly two weeks ago. Like Merrill Lynch, we're Bullish on America. More appropriate now, we're Bullish on the world.