Once upon a time, “homeland” was a word of little significance in the American context. What American before 9/11 would have called the United States his or her “homeland” rather than “country”? Who sang “My homeland, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”? Between my birth in 1944, as World War II was drawing to a close, and September 11, 2001, I doubt I ever heard the word in reference to the U.S.
There was a reason: “homeland” had a certain ring to it and anyone would have known at once just what that ring, that resonance, was. Not to put too fine a point on it, we’re talking about the ring of evil. It sounded like the sort of word the Nazis or maybe Stalin would have used as the terrible totalitarians of the previous century mobilized their people for horrific wars and heinous crimes.
It’s true that, in the run-up to September 11th, somewhere in the corridors of Washington, there were right-wingers already pushing to homeland-ize this country. The word, along with the idea of creating a future Office of Homeland Security, was then gestating like the monster baby in the movie Alien, awaiting its moment to burst forth.