September 12th: the day after
Today is September 12, 2010. It is time for America to move forward and stop looking at the reflection of 9 years and a day ago.
This is not to suggest that Americans should ever forget the events that unfolded on that tragic day; far from it. But our nation has suffered other terrible days and we learned to overcome, to adapt and to move on to tomorrow. 9/11 should join that list of days. Not forgotten, but placed alongside the other brutal and bloody events that have shaped our history. Pearl Harbor in 1941. Gettysburg in 1863. Chosin in 1950. Khe Sanh in 1968.
What makes September 11, 2001 so painful for those of this generation is that happened on our watch. It seemingly came without warning. Nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens perished in what still seems to most of us to be an act of willful murder – without provocation and needlessly. Nobody had declared a war. Nobody had ever used a means of mass transportation as a deadly weapon. And it all unfolded before nearly everyone’s eyes on live TV.
The reality is, that while 9/11 is tragic and the loss of life horrific, it certainly wasn’t unexpected by anyone who was paying attention to the world around them. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor two generations before, the tensions between the US and the unannounced enemy had been escalating for decades. This was not the first terrorist attack on US citizens or property by Islamic radicals – that dubious honor belongs to the Iranian Embassy takeover in 1979. There were subsequent attacks in the intervening years: Beirut in 1983 and the USS Cole in 2000 among them. But since we’re still enthralled by those nine year old images, we refuse to move on to the next stage of the fight.
Our Nation seems stuck in neutral. Rather than addressing the reality of being at war and throwing all of our resources at the enemy, we’ve settled for half-measures that lead neither to victory nor defeat, but a sort of Twilight Zone-ish never ending battle. Afraid to confront an implacable enemy abroad, we’ve willingly stripped away our own liberties little by little. No one questions virtually disrobing before boarding a flight anymore. Where once the idea of government promoting a “See something, say something” campaign would have been resisted on invasion of privacy grounds, today we laud those poor saps for doing their “civic duty.” Rather than react like our grandparents after Pearl Harbor; rather than show the resolve required of great nations as after Gettysburg, rather than displaying the fighting spirit of our parents at Chosin, our generation has decided that American values are not worthy of a fight. Instead of demanding our leaders throw everything but the kitchen sink at those who would do the United States harm, we would rather strip away the Constitution, one layer at a time; much the same way an inexperienced cook peals away bad layers of an onion hoping to find a useful piece beneath. But like the novice chef, what we’re likely left with after all of that peeling is a pile of garbage.
It’s your choice, America. Sit around, flaccid and impotent. Or do the same as we demand of our volunteers for military service: defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Until we accept that we must do the latter, we risk losing something far more important than a battle to the Islamists. Failure to stand and fight will result in the loss of our being Americans.