"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts on Other People's Thoughts on 9/11

Much will be written about 9/11 today, and much of it will have the tone of this article in the USA Weekend magazine insert in today's Sunday Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by Lester Holt of NBC News entitled "Our Differences Melted Away":

There is no sugarcoating the events of 9/11.   But those horrible days led to some of America's proudest moments.   If we could all recommit ourselves to looking out for one another just as we did in those dark days, we could ensure that part of 9/11's legacy is that it made us all more compassionate and caring.  

When people reach out, it reminds us that we can still have this incredible measure of control -- maybe not to singlehandedly fix things but to make a small difference that can become something larger.   Volunteering on Make a Difference Day is your chance to step up and be a part of the solution.

"No sugarcoating"?   Really?   To me, this is a glazed doughnut of gooey do-gooderness.    Is the appropriate reaction for mature citizens of a democracy, the world's sole remaining super-power, to an attack against its citizens in its most important city to volunteer on "Make a Difference Day"?    Really?  

The same magazine has an article about children born on 9/11:

Much has changed since that sunny day in September turned dark with smoke and dust and tragedy.   Yet, these children remind us what has remained constant:  our resilience and our ability to move forward in the face of uncertainty.
"Tragedy"... the word will be everywhere today.   But, to me, 9/11 wasn't a "tragedy" like a natural disaster.   That picture above isn't a photo of a tornado or a weather map showing a hurricane.   It was an act of war by an enemy that we now know to be al Qaeda and, more generally, radical Islam.   But you will look far and wide to see any mass media story on 9/11 today that talks very much, if at all, about radical Islam and its continuing threat, except to say gauzy liberal cliches about how we need to reach out and understand and celebrate diversity.   In the USA Weekend magazine in my paper, there was nary a word about Islam.  It's as if we've all agreed to talk about 9/11 in the passive voice.... events happened, tragedies occurred, but the agency of those actions is completely hidden.    We were the passive victims of a tragedy.   Not:  "Radical Islamists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, murdered 3,000 innocent Americans."   But, as Orwell taught us sixty-plus years ago, political will is entwined with political language.   We speak in the passive voice because we have largely become a passive people.   As the saying go, we're like the guy who won't take his own side in an argument.  

Mark Steyn makes a similar point in NRO in an article aptly entitled "Let's Roll Over":

Waiting to be interviewed on the radio the other day, I found myself on hold listening to a public-service message exhorting listeners to go to 911day.org and tell their fellow citizens how they would be observing the tenth anniversary of the, ah, “tragic events.” There followed a sound bite of a lady explaining that she would be paying tribute by going and cleaning up an area of the beach.

Great! Who could object to that? Anything else? Well, another lady pledged that she “will continue to discuss anti-bullying tactics with my grandson.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I can guarantee that there will be celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza, in Syria, in pockets of Iraq, in Iran, in pockets of Afghanistan, in Pakistan.... celebrations of a military victory over the Great Satan, America.   And, meanwhile, perhaps closer to home, the FBI is searching for terrorists plotting attacks on 9/11/11.   Lest we forget.

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