Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rod Dreher on his First Normal 9/11

Conservative blogger Rod Dreher may have the best reflection on September 11th:

I was thinking last night how this is the first 9/11 since the horrible day itself in which I haven't felt fixated on the date. In which I haven't wanted to watch HBO's magnificent documentary that came out a year after 9/11/2001. In which I didn't walk around on the verge of tears, wanting to say a prayer or punch a wall or ... something. Last week I was driving through Dallas and passed an elementary school that had on its sign a message inviting parents to come to a meeting about Cub Scouting "on September 11." I cringed at the juxtaposition: Cub Scouts and That Date. But then I thought, well, maybe it's good to be getting back to normal.

So: today was the first normal 9/11 for me. And maybe I feel a little bit guilty for that, as if to leave all those emotions behind is in some way to break faith with the dead. Objectively I know this is untrue, but still. As I've said in this forum many times, I regret the way my overwhelming anger over the events of 9/11 caused my judgment about what the US should do in response to be informed chiefly by wrath. Don't get me wrong: al-Qaeda deserved our wrath. But decisions of war and peace should be made coolly and rationally. The trauma of that event made that sort of deliberation extremely difficult. God, it's hard to remember how scared we all were then. And that's nothing to apologize for. Nothing like that had ever happened to our country, at least not the mainland. None of us had any idea what was coming next. My office in NYC was hit with anthrax, and because I had been leaning unawares over the pile of letters to the editor in which the anthrax-spiked letter had been sitting, when I caught a cold my doctor put me on Cipro just to be on the safe side.

It was a magnificent feeling we all shared, that national unity in the days and weeks after America was attacked. We all knew it couldn't last, I guess, but didn't you think, or at least hope, that something had changed forever, and for the better? As long as America was a victim, we were united domestically, and the world was on our side. When we decided to fight back, that ended that. We fought back foolishly, to be sure, and as Jonah notes, President Bush handled the politics of this thing badly. Big mistakes have been made. We all know that. We all live with that.

I'm glad the emotional impact of 9/11 is fading, because we cannot hang on to those emotions forever, nor should we want to, lest we become one of those sad prisoners of personal trauma who orient their lives around What Was Done To Them. But I worry that in our general fatigue (see previous post), we will forget what kind of damage was done to us on that day, and what the enemy can do if we're complacent. I think we all know that one of these days, America is going to be hit again, just as hard as, if not harder than, we were on 9/11. When that day comes, God forbid, I wonder how we'll respond as a nation? Will we get serious about things we ignored or put off this time around? Will we have wiser leaders in the White House and in Congress?

Will we ourselves have learned a thing? If so, what? Now is the time to be thinking about these things.

Read it all here.

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