Like the 20e September 11th anniversaryeapproaches and the start of the retrospective pieces, we will still hear about the weather. How blue was the sky that day. How it started as a perfect fall day until the sky turned hazy with smoke, ash and loose leaf paper.
It is now and it was then a contrast not only of the bitter scenes of a late Tuesday morning, but an allegory of American innocence and vulnerability: a beautiful blue day, open, pierced by death and depravity. . I mention this because how we remember things matters.
September 11 is becoming history. We are thirty years from the History Channel “9/11 Remastered” box set, and instead of the revered WWII veterans, it will be the few remaining firefighters who will answer interview questions, taking the time between words to breathe. with effort through lungs.
I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years – surely driven by partisan animosity but not primarily – that looks back on our brief era of exceptional unity with undertones of negativity. It looks askance at how we bonded in visceral displays of patriotism as evidence of chauvinism or group thinking. Some see this time as tearful or even look back in embarrassment.
Others claim that we have been manipulated, keeping pace with the elites developing the security state and consolidating power. Or put forward simple notions about the terrorist’s raison d’Ãªtre, often accompanied by the claim that the attack was a backlash – exaggerated, or that we funded bin Laden in the 1980s (which is incorrect ). Historians will, I believe, change the record in due course with respect to these specific intentions and causes and effects.
So September 11 is going down in history, but it’s not there yet. And the task that awaits us now, twenty years later, is to correct the record with regard to this season of rock solid unity and the outpouring of grief and anger that has pulsed across the land. Once corrected, a more interesting question comes into play on this Independence Day and over the next two months, given the magnitude of the idea of ââ”twenty years since” looms.
For the record: the way we came together in the weeks and months following September 11 was fully genuine, real and good. It was us at our best. It wasn’t chauvinism, a word implying artificiality. It was raw, natural anger. These speeches, the rhetoric used, were not exaggerated. Neither the ceremonies, nor the megaphone, nor Tony Blair’s visit, nor the memories of Congress: the correct and precise answer was all that feeling and anger. It was to kill those bastards, it was to scream into the megaphones, and it was to tie yellow ribbons around whatever we could.
So let’s go back to those united days, these weeks and months when we rediscovered our sense of national agency. During the days of the first pitches and overflights, these people shared a sense of clarity and unity. If this was us at our best, the most interesting and reasonable question to ask is: what would they think of us now? Twenty years later.
Or given that these people were – perhaps are – us: how would the past judge us from us present?
My bet? Hard. Please untie and take off our partisan gloves, worn and fitted as they have become, and let’s understand something together for a moment. Our failure is collective. We have failed, through the presidents of both parties, to organize a sufficient plan for Afghanistan, or to rally the people for it. We failed, once again together, in the 2008 financial crisis which still colors much of our mindset.
We are now failing to prevent the formation of new equivalent bubbles and to name each of our own villains as they do. More fundamentally, we have failed to grow and even pay for the expanding functions that we are asking government to perform.
It is natural for us to unite in the face of a foreign threat, and it is natural for a large, diverse continental country like ours to stray from time to time. But wait. We are fractured beyond what any of us could have imagined. And we are caught in a fever that, if not broken somehow, will trap America in a cycle of internal conflict that it cannot survive united. Yes, it happens fast. History does.
Today we celebrate our independence, an almost unimaginable degree of freedom. One which, even in our daily life, is easy to mentally dissociate, given the natural human tendency to presume order. We will celebrate this independence as we did twenty years ago, before September 11, and the year after, when fireworks sales exploded.
We write our own future, but with our remarkable freedom comes an equally remarkable responsibility. It’s just us. And for my generation, we are adults now. We are responsible for the results. There are no more excuses; the ledger reveals.
Our ancestors made a declaration of political independence. Then they and the following generations provided and defended a naturally abundant web through which an endless number of futures are possible. And that’s what we made of it.
So how would they judge us? I submit first that they would manifest shock where we are at, next disappointment, then more of that anger. And as they shouted “how dare you, how dare you this be your inheritance” their anger would be just as fair.
Jason Killmeyer is a counterterrorism and defense policy expert specializing in emerging technology applications. His writings have been featured in Human Events, Townhall, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and more. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKillmeyer.