9/11: Horror, Heroism, and History
I was remiss in not blogging yesterday on the 7th anniversary of 9/11, but I wanted to reflect a bit before jumping into the fray. Considering the dearth of 9/11 commemorative events in the Bay Area (with the notable exception of the patriotic stalwarts in Danville and the Lafayette Flag Brigade), I spent the day listening to radio, reading articles, and watching television programs on the subject.
Although I've seen just about every 9/11-related TV program out there, I discovered a new one this year: the History Channel's "102 Minutes that Changed America." It was notable in that it consisted entirely of raw footage taken by a group of New Yorkers on 9/11. Edited together, the film clips provide a harrowing and wrenching narrative of that 102 minutes of hell. The shock of realization, the loss of innocence, the fear, the futility, the recognition of evil, the anger, the heroism, the explosions, the dust, the daze, and above all the horror - all are captured in this film.
For my own part, that horror rears its head every 9/11 afresh. My sense that the 9/11 attacks were the most blatant demonstration of evil in my life time never fades. The many atrocities perpetrated by Islamic terrorists in the seven years since only strengthens that feeling. This is indeed, as John McCain put it at this year's 9/11 ceremony in Shanksville, a depraved and hateful enemy.
As for whether that 102 minutes really did change America, that becomes a bit fuzzier by the day. As is the case throughout history, the further away a nation or civilization travels from a transformative historical event, the lesser its resolve. In fact, I'm convinced that human beings, by and large, don't actually learn from history, but rather, repeat the same mistakes, over and over again. Meanwhile, a few stand on the sidelines screaming, "Wake up!" to whoever will listen.
Despite this depressing prognostication (did I mention I've been feeling a tad cynical as of late?), I still have faith in the gut, common sense of the American people, if not the elite, which is, by its very nature, hopelessly out of touch with reality. It is, by the way, this very elite that has done everything in its power to make the memory of 9/11, and its implications, fade.
I continue to hope for leadership that will truly understand the stakes involved. In the several years after 9/11 (and with its resolve in Iraq), I believe the Bush administration fit this description. It was the vision, bold action, and flouting of convention that, in part, won me over to the right side of the political spectrum in the wake of 9/11. That and the fact that the right seemed to have become the inheritors of classical liberalism and the left merely an "enemy of my enemy is my best friend" reactionary movement.
As it stands seven years later, the inaccurately named "war on terrorism," has shifted in large part to the ideological arena and today's battleground is the nation's classrooms, universities, media, publishing houses, culture, and courts. Very few politicians have acknowledged this reality. Making it worse is the complicity of many of our own government agencies and bureaucrats (who remain largely static whoever is president) in allowing Islamism to flourish under the careful tending of Saudi dollars.
The idea of Sharia (Islamic) law being instituted in a Western nation, while once considered outlandish, is on the cusp of becoming reality in Britain. Canada may be a close behind. And Europe continues to implode under the weight of its unassimilated Muslim population.
Here in the U.S., accommodations to regressive traditions and fear of giving offense continue to chip away at our own hard-won rights. Indeed, if 9/11 did anything, it was to speed up this process, an ironic twist of fate that Diana West articulates eloquently in her column on the subject.
In our eagerness to try and "understand" our enemies, Americans are at risk of allowing the tenets of multiculturalism and political-correctness to supercede human rights and ultimately, the Constitution. Until this process is addressed in the mainstream arena and fought accordingly, the war that began with 9/11 (although in reality, decades before) will continue.
Update: Since writing the above, the UK has adopted its first official sharia courts. The Times Online reports.