It’s been twelve years, now, since nearly 3,000 Americans died in a single day by the actions of 19 men who wanted to make a name for themselves and strike a blow against the Great Satan–that is, America.
When it happened, we gathered together, and pledged to never let it occur again.
But discord began soon. There were those who said we deserved it, for some sin or another, be it sexual immorality or some kind of imperialistic arrogance. There were those who tried to use it for their own purposes, and those who thought this meant that it was all a hoax. As time went on, those using 9/11 for their own purposes were superseded by those attempting to use the legacy of 9/11 for their own purposes. Specificity is not required at the moment–left and right have been guilty of such.
This, of course, was nothing new. People are very good at learning the lessons they want to out of events and their consequences and causes.
But it’s a little bit different for those of us who grew up with this. I was in fourth grade that September morn, and I know some of the readers of this blog were even younger. For those of us too young to remember Mogadishu, it was our first notion that the days when there were bad people in the world who weren’t easily stopped still were going on.
But the afterwards bickering was our first exposure to partisanship and government overreach, for those of us too young to really get what was happening when Bill Clinton was impeached. We were introduced to the notion that American government officials and soldiers were fallible in the most traumatic way possible, as rumors of torture turned out to be true.
Our first war was seen as a roaring success, with some potholes from stay-behinds. Our second war to watch was a miserable quagmire. Neither one felt like an actual war, for what we’d learned in school of war spoke of national sacrifice, and enemies that could be seen and fought on an open battlefield, and who were defeated when their armies were destroyed. Even Vietnam had some kind of things like that. Not comparative normality on the home front, with a slow bleeding wound in a war that’s been going for years, and a foe that will not stand and fight, and blows up cars, roadside debris, or himself to get at his enemies.
And then came the 2008 stock market crash, and American economic prosperity was hammered like a nail into an oaken board.
Now, we would have learned that what we’d been told in school wasn’t the whole story eventually. But to learn it the way we did, not just as part of history but as we grew up–that’s a whole ‘nother thing altogether.
It’s shaped our culture, it’s shaped our politics, and then changed our culture through our politics. And killed nearly 3,000 Americans. That’s what it means.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness