A major debating point after the Democratic National Convention focused on whether Americans still retained hope and how much -- as in the famous poster that helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008.
A better question might be whether Americans retain any of the fortitude they displayed while forging the most powerful economy and later military machine in world history. Yet, today our struggles are little concerned with building anything. They revolve around who gets what from the economy and from the government -- very rarely about what it takes to make this a great nation.
What it takes, of course, is amassed wealth and a willingness to spend a large chunk of it on great public works, institutions and endeavors: These include defending democratic governments around the globe, relieving suffering of the world's poorest, and supporting our scientific community toward greater advances and discoveries -- toward, in fact, the stars.
But that takes something besides a keen awareness of one's self-interest and a willingness to battle forever to protect even paltry economic turf.
We don't believe those who signed up for the military after September 11, 2001, were thinking of their cut of the American pie. Many of them paid a heavy price because they stepped forward, while millions of others went on accumulating the trivial status junk of a commercialized culture.
And it is certain the emergency responders who charged into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers with the goal of helping those trapped inside acted selflessly, as did those who tried to stop terrorists commandeering Flight 93 and prevented a strike on the White House or Congress, losing their own lives in the process.
Those are the Americans whose voices and deeds we should be listening to and emulating on this anniversary, not those continually scrapping and back-biting over economic chicken bones while the best of what is the United States sinks into a gloomy night.