Monday, September 11, 2006

Resilience and Forgetfulness

On this five-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, there is no way I could add anything to Frank Rich's column in yesterday's New York Times, parts of which are excerpted below.

He takes his start from a rarely seen photo taken of that tragedy, a picture that Thomas Hoepker of Magnum Photos locked away for years because he thought it conveyed a wholly inappropriate insouciance.

Now, however, Hoepker worries that the complacency he captured is all too indicative of a post-9/11 nation.

Rich explains:

"Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker's photo aren't necessarily callous. They're just American. In the five years since the attacks, the ability of Americans to dust themselves off and keep going explains both what's gone right and what's gone wrong on our path to the divided and dispirited state the nation finds itself in today.

"What's gone right: the terrorists failed to break America's back. The ''new'' normal lasted about 10 minutes, except at airport check-ins. The economy, for all its dips and inequities and runaway debt, was not destroyed. The culture, for better and worse, survived intact ...


"But even as we celebrate this resilience, it too comes at a price. The companion American trait to resilience is forgetfulness. What we've forgotten too quickly is the outpouring of affection and unity that swelled against all odds in the wake of Al Qaeda's act of mass murder ...

"At the National Cathedral prayer service on Sept. 14, 2001, President Bush found just the apt phrase to describe this phenomenon: 'Today we feel what Franklin Roosevelt called "the warm courage of national unity." This is the unity of every faith and every background. It has joined together political parties in both houses of Congress.' What's more, he added, 'this unity against terror is now extending across the world.'

"The destruction of that unity, both in this nation and in the world, is as much a cause for mourning on the fifth anniversary as the attack itself. As we can't forget the dead of 9/11, we can't forget how the only good thing that came out of that horror, that unity, was smothered in its cradle.

"On the very next day after that convocation, Mr. Bush was asked ... 'how much of a sacrifice' ordinary Americans would 'be expected to make in their daily lives, in their daily routines.' His answer: 'Our hope, of course, is that they make no sacrifice whatsoever.' He, too, wanted to move on -- to 'see life return to normal in America,' as he put it -- but toward partisan goals stealthily tailored to his political allies rather than the nearly 90 percent of the country that, according to polls, was rallying around him.

"This selfish agenda was there from the very start. As we now know from many firsthand accounts, a cadre from Mr. Bush's war cabinet was already busily hyping nonexistent links between Iraq and the Qaeda attacks. The presidential press secretary, Ari Fleischer, condemned Bill Maher's irreverent comic response to 9/11 by reminding 'all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.' Fear itself -- the fear that 'paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,' as F.D.R. had it -- was already being wielded as a weapon against Americans by their own government. Less than a month after 9/11, the president was making good on his promise of 'no sacrifice whatsoever.'

"And so here we are five years later. Fearmongering remains unceasing. So do tax cuts. So does the war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. We have moved on, but no one can argue that we have moved ahead."

(photos courtesy


At 7:31 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Chase you surprise me in parroting the NY Times' revisitation of the Ari Fleischer quote without challenging the context in which the columnist uses it. As you are well aware, even Ted Koeppel said that Ari was owed an apology for how that quote was lifted out of context and misused by left-leaning journalists. Fleischer was asked a question about a bigoted comment made by a congressman, and was cautioning Americans against saying mean-spirited things about Arab-Americans. Yet this has been used time and again to somehow suggest supression of free speech -- a flawed meme which your own very free blog belies.

Surprising and really disappointing, Chase. I expect far better than for you to be lulled to sleep by the propaganda of the Times.

I would also challenge anyone to show me where the "fear-mongering" exists when terrorists just plotted to drop 10 of our airliners out of the sky over the Atlantic and have managed to execute a terrible attack in just about every year since 9/11 -- Bali, Madrid, London. Or are we now buying into the meme that this was "hyped"?

As I said weeks ago, it's clear we're doomed. Let the dhimmitude begin.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Reddirt, I'll concede your point on the Fleischer remark having been taken out of context. I didn't take it out because I would think that dot-dot-dotting one line in a paragraph would be a bit TOO selective. But, yeah, I'll give you that one.

I don't think there's any disputing that fearmongering is continuing unabated. But then again, I wouldn't expect that concession from someone who would write "it's clear we're doomed. let the dhimmitude begin."

Whatever the fuck dhimmitude means, that is. But I suspect it's fearmongering.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Chase, I say this in all respect, but the fact that you don't know what "dhimmitude" means speaks volumes.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

More fear-mongering from fear-mongerers ;-)

-Bat Ye'or (2002). Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide

-Bat Ye'or (1996). The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude

-Bostom, Andrew, ed. (2005). The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims

No, I have not read them. But I'm aware of what they describe, which is the systematic subjugation of minorities under Islamic law. At least Jews and Christians have the opportunity to be marked "dhimmi" under sharia. Hindus, Buddhists and other non-"people of the book" must either convert to Islam or die.

Such a system is what Islamic "fascists" (and that term certainly seems apt when considering things like dhimmitude, doesn't it?) wish to impose across the globe. Dhimmitude already exists in places like Iran and increasingly in places like Somalia (the very country bin Laden used as justification for believing America was, in his words, "a paper tiger"). Islamic radicals are setting about imposing it in places like Indonesia (where they bombed innocents in Bali).

Such developments are precisely why it is so disturbing to see Spain's prime minister don a keffiyeh and grin for the cameras -- something Howard Dean also did, by the way -- because they raise the specter of history's worst genocide.

And I must ask this in the interests of fair-minded discussion ... did you mean to say that the interrupted plot of several weeks ago was fear-mongering? Or Bali, Madrid, London and other attacks?

At 8:53 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

And I brought up the Ari Fleischer comment because it was central to the entire point of that whole paragraph. Without his misuse of the quote, the paragraph would have been significantly weakened, and thus his argument diluted. That the columnist chose to misuse the quote is no surprise. Either it was intentional on his part, which I would suggest is probably the case, or he was being incredibly lazy. Par for the course for the Times in any case.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

I do, however, like one sentiment behind this column and that is the notion that our nation should have been willing and able to offer more sacrifice of material comfort in the struggle against Islamic fascism. It's also true, and much to my own sadness, that the age of irony didn't die but just kept on kickin'. Irony is fine, so long as it is one cultural trope among many. But when it becomes the dominant smirk of an era, then we're headed for dark waters. We were stripped of irony for a few weeks, at least, after 9/11. It was bracing and refreshing to see unvarnished honesty returning to our national conversation for a short time. And I was sorry to see the culture go back to its snarky ways.


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