On this 4th of July (I am writing this on the 4th) I am reflecting on the freedom our nation won, and how damaged we have become because of people in the world who want to destroy it.  At the moment I am so frustrated I want to pull my hair out -- if only I had hair to pull!  I have been trying to set up accounts for an elderly family member who is moving to this state, and for whom I have power of attorney.  Sounds like that last piece should make the tasks a breeze.  Nope.  But I can tell you why it has been a nightmare in two numbers: 9/11.

That one event changed everything, despite our protestations that the terrorists did not win because of American spirit and determination.  And things have gone downhill from there.  The ransomware epidemic that has swept the world, crippling, of all things, the British National Health Service, among many other organizations, businesses and individuals here in the United States, is simply the latest misery to pile onto the damage done to our society on 9/11.

When I moved to Lansing I was told by many people there was no need to lock the door, or my car.  I was charmed by the fact that you only needed to dial the last four digits to make a call if the person you were calling also had a 533- number (alas! no longer true).  Children were safe.  Adults were safe.  Or at least people felt that way.

I am not talking about some pastoral time in the 19th or early 20th century.  I am talking about less than 30 years ago.  But when those planes hit the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington 16 years ago, everything changed.  Security became paramount.  Little old ladies and babies had to be frisked at airports.  Water was not allowed on airplanes -- water! -- because it might be an explosive, not water.  That made the news.  What didn't make the news was how difficult it would be, going forward, to establish the basic things citizens need to live life in America: bank accounts.  Insurance.  Doctors.  For a start.

I have been struggling to set up a bank account for over a month... in a bank I have done business with for at least a quarter of a century.  Thanks to 9/11 they don't trust their long-standing customers.  Our local credit union has no idea how to handle an out of state power of attorney document.  They require proof of residence.  And they say the copy of the driver's license I provided was too fuzzy, and in any event it was an out of state license.  I was promised a legal decision on the out of state power of attorney several weeks ago -- still no decision.  Since I needed to begin using the account to prepare for my person's arrival I opened an account in my own name.  I was told I would not be able to make my person the primary name on that account, even though it is that person's money.

Don't even get me started on Social Security, Medicare, and getting established with a doctor before my person's current prescriptions from out of state run out!  And going back to what you can bring on an airplane... you can't get meals any more... not that they were any great shakes, but you can't even bring your own sub sandwich through security any more.  Pickles and onions are apparently a threat to commercial aircraft, which has been a huge boon for the shops in airports that charge double for everything because they have a captive market.  I am pulling all my hair out right now.  Life hasn't just become more difficult because of 9/11, but it has become an enormous sack of more irritating!  Is my way of life disrupted?  You bet it is!

Terrorism has expanded from actual mass killings to cyber mass killings, and the irritation factor has risen exponentially because of it.  Tell the truth - do you know all your passwords?  Do you use one password for everything so that if a hacker gets into one of your accounts he or she can get into all of them?  Do you use two-factor authentication?  Do you pay every year for an anti-virus and/or anti-malware program?  Have you ever been hacked?  Your computer?  Your email account?  Your Web site?

All this terrorism has created a galaxy of red tape, distrust, and has forced Americans to give up freedoms in order to retain what freedoms we can.  The politically correct thing to say is that we won because we didn't let the terrorists get to us.  The reality is that while we didn't exactly lose, we certainly let them get to us.  I don't think this is what the Revolutionary War heroes who fought to create this country had in mind.

So on this Independence Day, I am thinking about what we can do to get those freedoms back.  In today's world I am not even sure we can get them back.  But then I think about that more than 200 years of American spirit and determination. Surely we can take a break from our cell phones, partisan politics, and the endless gossip that masquerades as news these days -- so-and-so tweeted about whosiewhatsis and whosiewhatsis slammed so-and-so, so there! ... really, THAT is news?  What is this, high school?!!! -- to remember the pluck we Americans had that was enough to defy a literal empire (with a penchant for red coats) to create a country we refer to as "The Land of the Free". 

It's time to make the 4th of July stand for Re-Independence Day, the day we begin to take our American life back.  Surely we can bring that spirit, determination, and pluck to bear on the enemies who, despite our protestations, have seriously dented our way of life.  And find solutions together to repair the dents.  (And if I could get my hair back, that would be a nice thing, too.)