It burns

i-536ddfbe2778b890bf29ba1bda34f784-200608291023.jpgThe stupidity of this take on why 9/11 matters is agonizing. We have to remember because ? it helps the president’s poll numbers. I won’t re-debunk the silliness of the Patriot Act arguments, except to say that the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, or biometric whatzits wouldn’t have prevented 9/11. We had the information already, we just lacked the attention of the powerful, and the resources for the law enforcement. In this sense 9/11 and Katrina both represent the same exact problem.
This may also be why people don’t think it’s important to remember No Man’s Land. The president won’t get any bump from reminding us that he waited until the hard work was over in New Orleans before visiting. Nor will anyone soon forget the tremendous vacuum of leadership, the way that bucks were routinely FedEx-ed from 1600 PennsylvaniaCrawford to Baton Rouge. Nor should anyone forget that when America was attacked on 9/11, the President spent the day in hiding, as far from New York or Washington as he could get.

On September 19, 2001, my parents wrote a letter to family and friends about their days following the attacks. Living just across the Hudson River from New York, they were deeply and personally involved in the attacks. The void in the sky confronts them every day, and the column of smoke led them to the scene above, a memorial that the people of the city created in front of George Washington, in Washington Square Park.

My parents’ letter ended:

Now we all know we are in another phase of this event. The missing are presumed dead; the cleanup will take on a regularity; we’re going back to work and daily routines. Our attention has turned to a desire for defense, justice and retaliation ? coupled with concern about erring into revenge, retribution or an imitation of the tactics that terrorists used against us. We know we as American people are targets, and we are rightly concerned about the possibilities for being struck again. After all, we are confronted by groups of people whose purpose is to attack us in chilling, crippling ways ? and who have shown masterful ability to first plan unthinkable acts, then execute their schemes with precision.

Their deadly game is played by different rules from those the rest of us live by, and that makes our task much more difficult. We as a nation need to defend ourselves, to arrest the perpetrators in our country and to isolate and eliminate their cells abroad ? and to do it by our rules and in ways that do not jeopardize the civil liberties and due process that make our nation such a wonderful place to live. We worry that we have a President of limited intellect and vision advised by a cabinet of Cold Warriors and social reactionaries. We worry that the Congress will rush so quickly to new laws that we, the citizens, will not have time to react and guide them. So when we remind ourselves that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we need to remember to be watchful on many fronts: against external enemies, against those inside who take advantage of our system to murder us, against vigilantism that attacks peaceful people because of how they dress or look or where they come from, and also against the policies of government, however well intentioned, that might destroy freedoms in the name of defense.

The President signed the Patriot Act on October 26, barely a month later.

The only people who have forgotten what happened on 9/11 are those who think that event was a political football, a blanket that could cover any absurd decision, and any abuse of American liberty.

Thanks to Tony for pointing out the inspiring essay.


  1. #1 Julie Stahlhut
    August 29, 2006

    I’m definitely a liberal. I’m infuriated by suggestions that the left doesn’t care about 9/11, or that we’ve conveniently forgotten about it. There’s not a day that’s gone by since then in which I haven’t remembered it. One of my husband’s long-time colleagues was killed aboard Flight 77. One of our then-neighbors lost a 25-year-old cousin on one of the Boston flights. I frantically e-mailed one of my college roommates, an Army officer who had long been based at the Pentagon. She wrote back telling me that she’d been transferred to another assignment a few months earlier and was safe, but that quite a few of her co-workers had been killed in the crash.

    The idea that the right has a monopoly on remembrance is a steaming crock. You’ve called it correctly — it’s a calculated ploy to crank up the poll numbers. And it’s even more distressing that people still fall for it.

  2. #2 Josh
    August 29, 2006

    Actually, Clinton could have gotten bin Laden if a Republican Congress weren’t wasting effort on a failed real estate deal. Rather than focusing on enemies abroad, Clinton had to fight his Congress. And we all suffered as a result.

  3. #3 Rachel
    August 29, 2006

    E. Goldstein is almost exactly correct, except for a minor spelling error. The seventh word in the sentence should begin with the letter “w.”

  4. #4 Dave
    August 30, 2006

    Why is every answer to any criticism of Bush by a republican either “Clinton did it” or “Clinton didn’t do it?” Why can’t they stick to the topic at hand?

  5. #5 textivore
    August 30, 2006

    Anyone who hasn’t read the comments to the entry, or at least skimmed them, should definitely do so. Just pad your desk beforehand, since you will spend some time slamming your head into it after reading them…

  6. #6 Rachel
    August 30, 2006

    EG:”I wasn’t obsesses with bjs even if you were!”

    Hm. Because *I’m* not the one writing random blog comments regarding Bill’s peccadilloes seven years after the fact.

    Also, the minor spelling errors continue, unless you meant to highlight that you are, still, presently, obsessed with Mr. Clinton’s sex life.

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