America, take back your brand!

It’s fine to get upset at the intelligence lapses, the TSA screw-ups and the White House gaffes (especially its insistence on treating terrorists like criminals, not wartime enemies) that have all unfolded since the Christmas Day terror attack but ultimately terrorism’s success or failure depends on us.

By its very definition, terrorism fails if the target does not succumb to fear.

After September 11, 2001 we used the mantra “don’t let the terrorists win.” Maybe we said and heard it too much, but it was a useful phrase that reminded us of the bottom line here: we’re Americans and we have a way of life. Letting anyone disrupt it by using violence or the threat of violence was an outrage, it was wrong, and we needed to pushback.

The problem with fear is that it doesn’t have a well-defined limit. If you start getting afraid of stepping on that airplane, pretty soon you might be afraid of crossing the street or jump at the sight of your own shadow. A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man only one.

One of America’s strongest and most enduring brand traits is our tendency to resist fear. The American legacy is the legacy of risk-taking and rugged individualism. Lose this and we lose a critical part of our national identity.

That’s why, instead of expecting government to solve all of our security problems and stop all the terrorists, we need to face facts. We are in a war. The enemy is relentless and brutal. There will be days when the government will fail and the enemy will seem to win. Americans will die.

So what? Now I don’t mean to dismiss the loss of life or diminish the tragedy -- I mean to put this tragedy in mature and tough perspective and eliminate the fear. We need to get on with things, board those airplanes, travel wherever we want, speak our minds freely, and keep moving forward no matter what. As the old song says, we need to eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative.

Getting stuck is what Americans need to be afraid of. After all, getting stuck in the past is what characterizes the terrorists. Let’s face it, broken, fear-ridden societies, places without a history of effective governance and civic tradition bred the terrorists who want to do us harm. Ancient prejudices and closed minds define them and they think they have the right to impose this nonsense on us.

Well they don’t and we simply can’t let fear of their agenda and their violent tactics define us. We are the people of Bunker Hill, not a people born to live in bunkers. The best defense is to be true to our native brand: be optimistic, be open, be friendly, and, above all, be brave.

And, remember, the business of life is always easier when you keep marketing in mind.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.