Every year around September 11th the press (actually our whole society) wallows in sentimentality. Did the same thing happen in the first years after other attacks like Pearl Harbor? I don’t like it. This year, an anniversary divisible by ten, is going to be worse.
Everything, even tragedy, is a learning experience. I wanted to write a simple post about what lessons we could learn from the events of that day. I even started writing a few times. But I always stopped. Everything I wrote was so obvious. Everyone knew these things by September 12th, ten years ago. I realized something simple:
“Those who were capable of learning from the events of 9/11 have done so. Those who weren’t capable of learning haven’t.”
And that’s it. The press will roll in saccharine sweet horseshit until the cows come home but most of us got the full import right quick. The folks on the Pennsylvania plane recognized the situation and acted with clarity and decisiveness. Nobody on the ground was hurt and evil was stopped…at tremendous personal sacrifice. That’s fortitude. That’s guts. That’s heroism. Don’t let politicians play it any other way, American citizens are free to make choices and on that day they made a tough one very well.
Nor were the folks on that flight alone. Americans everywhere genuinely steeled their resolve after that day. We have become a more muscular people. Less forgiving of those who cross us. Less willing to assume the mantle of unearned blame. This is good. It’s more fitting than the cringing supplication that’s so popular in certain circles. It’s good for us to be who we are. I’m not sure how our debts and demography will play out but physical danger does not and will never stop us. We swim too well in those currents.
A counterpoint to this is a bizarre bureaucratic disconnect. The government’s infatuation with form over substance somehow drew a line from crazed zealots performing an act of war to a bored mall cop who wants to fondle my crotch before I enter an airport. Go ahead; try to explain the logic. Draw for me the connection between taking grandma’s knitting needles and killers who believe God told them to destroy us. Seized nail clippers are the kind of distraction you get when irrelevant minds will not face real evil.
Since I reality is a finer thing than theater…I choose to ignore the press and everything they say on the subject of September 11th. Political speeches are carefully concocted to be content free and I’m not interested in what the New York Times and NPR will manage to deconstruct from a clear obvious overt attack. Killing innocents en masse wasn’t subtle and it doesn’t take a genius to understand it. I won’t let eggheads talk around it. I’m not playing their game.
Before, during, and after September 11th, I go into a media blackout. I provide myself with a time of introspection. A time of peace. The luxury of contemplation. Rather than listen to overpaid English majors cut and paste “what it all means” from their internal biases, I get out and live. I might go fishing, take a hike, whatever…so long as it’s far from the nearest TV.
That too, is a lesson of September 11th. That we are free. Commemorative dinner plates and “very special interviews” filled with flag draped montages are not the substance of freedom. I’m free to see what really happened and understand things as they are. It’s not reassuring but then again reality never is.