Saturday, September 11, 2010

On September 11th

Well, I have to admit that I’ve found it hard to write about this subject. There’s been a lot in the news about the event that has more or less anchored the day in the American psyche. There’s the whole mosque stuff, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post, and then there’s the preacher guy who spent a few weeks planning on burning Korans today. Both are excellent examples of jackassery that bigoted religious extremists can get up to in order to make some kind of political point, though it has been interesting to watch each of the sides try to support the one and boo the other. (Sidenote: My take is, they have the right to build the mosque, and they have the right to burn the books. It still doesn’t make either of them any less disrespectful douchebags, though.)

As annoying as that is to have happening on the ninth anniversary of the tragedy, I stumbled across an article that was far, far worse, at least to my admittedly narrow perspective of the subject. The author suggested that the United States was paying the price for overreacting to the Trade Center attacks. The casualties suffered in those strikes were weighed against the financial burdens and loss of life the U.S. has sustained in its retaliation. He treated the events like it was some kind of math equation, as if thousands of American citizens dead on our soil could have been weighed and dismissed through some kind of cost/benefit analysis. I wonder if he would have wanted others to do the same had he or some of his family been victims of the crimes inflicted on this day nine years ago.

Nine years ago, men went onboard four of our planes, intending to use them as missiles against civilian and military targets. They did so knowing that they would be killing civilians, that unarmed men, women and children would die, and yet to them those deaths were worth it, probably even desirable. The reason? They hate us. Osama bin Laden and his ilk despise America, despise its cultures, its traditions, its very existence and presence on the international stage. Al Qaeda lives by killing and stealing, by extending their power through fear and force, and America was one place that remained truly isolated from their reach. The simple fact that we were different and untouchable must have galled them, and so they attacked, and killed thousands. Are we now somehow ashamed to have struck back? Have we forgotten what happened to so many of us as the towers came down? What kind of patriots are we, to bear witness to the senseless, hateful slaughter of so many of us and say it is even possible to overreact?

Today, as I look back on the sacrifices and heroism of the passengers, firefighters, policemen and others on that terrible day, I have to wonder what they would have thought of those who they left behind. What would they think of the nation we’ve become, and would they think their lives still well spent? I can only hope that in some small way I might be doing my part to nudge that answer towards yes rather than the alternative. There is so much good still left in America, and I hope that we do not squander both that potential and the blood spilled to give it to us as we go forward.

May we remember today that the actions of evil men proved to us nine years ago that we should never underestimate the devastation that truly wicked men can cause. May we remember the loss of so many of our own, and resolve to always remain vigilant so that we never have to endure such things again. And as we go about our lives today, may we remember that even as a band of murderers tried to destroy the American spirit, men and women from all walks of life stood up to the challenge and showed what this country is all about. May we never forget these things, because the cost of forgetting is far too great.

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