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Something horrible has happened—it is not yet clear what—and thousands are dead, and more are expected to die. You reach for your cell phone, but the circuits are busy, and will be for hours—it will take you the rest of the day to check in with your loved ones. They share a sense of purpose that is greater than their fear.
They are experiencing something they’d only read about: War has come to their land. You used to scoff at that word, or argue that dissent was the highest form of patriotism.
Only at the margins of politics and the media do some people question the usefulness and legality of the war effort.
The government pushes the limits further, cutting off access to the judiciary for those deemed the enemy.
Here is what it looks like: On a sunny morning you turn on the television as you make coffee, or the speaker in your shower streams the news, or the radio comes on when you turn the ignition key in your car. Tragedy has cast its shadow over every space where you encounter strangers: the subway, your child’s school, your lunch spot.
The voices of the newscasters are familiar, but their pitch is altered, and they speak with a peculiar haste. People are quieter, less frivolous, yet they are not subdued.
The president is no longer unpopular, and he can impose his will on Washington and the country.
The country is in a forever war, a state of exception that has taken away many American freedoms, some of which were ceded voluntarily.
His demeanor—which some used to deride as primitive—is well suited for this new black-and-white era. There is no outright censorship; correspondents are part of the effort now, as they were during the Second World War.
His administration institutes sweeping surveillance to ferret out enemies at home, and wages one war and then another abroad. American casualties pile up, the foreign carnage is enormous and unmeasured, but there is scant domestic resistance.