It was always bound to happen. December 7th was proclaimed to be a day that would live in infamy, and for some it does. But most young people won’t have a clue what happened that day. Heck, World War II has been reinvented to trivialize concentration camps to prove they were nothing compared to how cops treat black people daily in America.
In one respect, it’s the product of weak minds being twisted to convince even weaker minds that the horror du jour is as bad as the worst horror in history. Is the shooting of Jacob Blake the equivalent of the lynching of Emmit Till? Some would call it “ahistorical.” A blunt person might call it “nuts.” A woke person won’t care because nothing in history matters except for how it can be twisted to serve their impassioned goals of the moment.
Today is September 11th. I’ve written about what happened on this date in 2001 many times over the years, trying not to repeat myself and eventually referring back to my past writing, as it’s not a memory that sits well for me. But I always remembered it. I can’t forget it.
There’s no mention of it on the front page of today’s New York Times. There no remembrance on the op-ed page. There’s much going on in the world, and the Times’ slogan explains. All the news that fits, we print.” This doesn’t fit. “Trump burped” is a headline. 9/11? It’s a historical footnote, a generation removed from the passionate young people to whom the Times caters. And everything that’s happening today was far worse, far, far worse, than anything that ever happened before, except to the extent it feeds their narrative and can be used as a tool to prove whatever it is they desperately need to prove.
Like Pearl Harbor Day, September 11th stands out as a day we were attacked on our own soil. We were attacked by terrorists. Muslim extremists, which brought about an overreaction toward Muslims and people who, to the unsophisticated American eye, might look somewhat foreign in a Muslim-like way.
We blindly reacted as a nation, because that’s how nations tend to react to tragedy. Some of us spent years trying to temper the misguided reactions, the over-reactions, because they too harmed people, and undermined our constitutional rights, which was to some extent the point of the attack on the Twin Towers and elsewhere.
There were lessons, huge, important lessons, learned by living through 9/11. We learned that we were not invulnerable to terrorist attack, no matter how mighty and powerful our nation believed itself to be. We learned our institutions were not invulnerable to attack when we shrugged off the niggling details of law, of civil rights, of hard thought at a moment we were all too taken with our sadness and outrage. We were angry. It made us stupid. It made us blind. It made us do the very things the terrorists wanted us to do, eschew the core of who and what we were and become as vicious and hateful as them.
We allowed ourselves to engage in false wars because of it. Do you remember all the “weapons of mass destruction” experts talking about Bunker Buster Bombs?
For those of us who were close to the Twin Towers, close to the people who died, sat in our desk chair, looking out the window at The Site, as it we called it, and saw every day body parts. airplane parts, and pieces of the World Trade Center scattered on the ground, on ledges, on roofs for months afterward, 9/11 was personal.
To me, this isn’t an historical footnote. It’s not some ancient event to be reimagined by some 20-year-old to justify why he should toss a Molotov cocktail. It’s not a tool to twist in furtherance of whatever delusion inflames you this moment. It happened. Real people died. Huge buildings fell. We learned how fragile our respect for constitutional rights could be when tested. Inter arma enim silent leges.
Did you realize that there are still “enemy combatants” in cells in Guantánamo? They will likely rot there until they die, their potential as a threat long since over, and even worse, no one knows or cares that they’re there. They, too, are forgotten.
This day was bound to come. I knew it. You did too if you thought about it. The day when whatever transitory outrage of the moment was far more important than some dusty old bit of ancient American history that wasn’t really as bad as it seemed, clearly wasn’t as important as the outrage du jour and was no longer relevant to the world of people with an eight-second attention span. Filled with education and indoctrination, but devoid of wisdom and experience.
There are many things happening today, September 11, 2020, that are important and newsworthy. There’s the pandemic. Trump. Forest fires. Trump. Congress’ failure to produce a stimulus bill to enable people to survive the pandemic. Trump. These are all important to us, and important to as at this moment in time. At least we’re sure they are now. Whether they will turn out to be as important in the long term is always a mystery.
History can be weird that way, how the moment’s most important thing ends up being nothing more than an ephemeral twinge that passes uneventfully. What we end up with, however, are changes we make to our foundational system, our respect for rights, law and each other.
For young people, 9/11 is something they read about in books, were told about by their parents or teachers. The lessons of 9/11, about what happened to us and why, about what we sacrificed to the terrorists in a blind outrage over what they did to some as people and others as a nation, are forgotten.
When some survivor of the Twin Towers turns 100, there will be a human interest story on whatever medium prevails when it happens, and people will emote over it. Until then, it will pop up only when it serves some ulterior purpose in whatever bastardized form is needed by its users and abusers. It’s now relegated to the dustbin of history, with only a few of us olds remember what really happened and why.