Forgetting

When it happened, I was sitting at work, much as I will be today. I had a wife, a 2 year old and a 1 year old. As it would turn out, I wasn’t personally–directly–affected by the tragic events on 9/11. That puts me in the majority. Yet, like everyone, my life and that of my wife and young daughters was forever changed. Our innocence and naivete was lost. At least that’s what we thought at that time. Yet, 11 years later, I think we are forgetting.
This election year I’ve heard the Bush Administration referred to derisively as one that brought us “two wars”. Lumping Afghanistan, which not so long ago was considered “the good war”, with Iraq, the supposed “bad war”. In Afghanistan we directly responded to those who had attacked our nation by killing innocents in cold blood. When did it become a bad war, one that was lumped in with the supposedly really “bad war”? Probably when politicians thought they could score some partisan points by tapping into America’s war fatigue. Americans aren’t a patient people. Many think we’ve lost our way in Afghanistan. We beat the Taliban and Bin Laden is dead. Isn’t it time to come home? Except the Taliban is back and who knows what they’ll do when we leave. There’s no easy answer and it’s ugly. We don’t like ugly, so we ignore it. Unless it’s a convenient talking point. But we’re still there and our men and women are fighting and dying. There doesn’t seem to be a clear end game anymore. We owe our warriors that much, at the very least.
While we sent our fighting men and women off to war, we vowed to buckle down on the home front. We made sacrifices to be more secure. To be sure, not everyone was keen on such sacrifice: we were reminded that the loss of freedom for the sake of security wasn’t worth it. It probably isn’t, but many–perhaps most–Americans will take security over freedom. Now? Now we have a government security force inhabiting our airports that seems more like a jobs retention program bent on enforcing politically correct searches rather than actually protecting us from those who would do us harm. They put on a good show of keeping us safer. But is the cost of admission worth it?
And what about Ground Zero? It seems like if it had all happened in the 1940’s or ’50’s, we’d have had something bigger and bolder built there by now. Instead the project is stalled mid-construction. All after a years-long debate over what to do with the site. Nike’s “Just Do It” motto used to seem like one appropriate to America in general. Now it’s more like “Can We Do It? Or Will it Offend Someone?”
My kids know of 9/11, but there’s no way their generation will ever be able to conceptualize the tragedy. It will be a piece of history, like Vietnam was for us Gen Xers, and it will end up being a heavily politicized piece of history, at that. Again, like Vietnam. Nuance will be lost, the role of contingency in well-meaning, if flawed, intentions instituted through policy will be glossed over as we assign black hats and white hats to our American politicians. We could very well lose sight of the fact that there actually was an evil that brought this to our shores. They made the choice to kill innocents. We didn’t “bring this on ourselves”, they brought it to us. And we gave it back the best we could.
What have we learned from all of this? That when roused we will kick your ass if you screw with us. But we’ll also turn to, or allow, government–often with good intentions–to impose more barriers and inconveniences on us for the sake of security. We’ve learned that the public has little stomach for drawn out conflicts. That is probably a good thing as it raises the bar higher before we again enter into war. But it also is worrisome that, after we are committed, too many people may conclude that the reality show called “war” had a good run, but now it’s time for it to be cancelled whether the plot lines had been tied up or not.
Maybe forgetting is a good thing. Maybe, as 9/11 becomes lumped in with Pearl Harbor or even “Remember the Maine”, our nation will revert to a more innocent time. Perhaps even a more prosperous time. But hopefully not a more naive time. Danger is always out there. We have to be on the lookout. That, I hope, is at least the one lesson we never forget.

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Russ
Russ
9 years ago

“This election year I’ve heard the Bush Administration referred to derisively as one that brought us ‘two wars’. Lumping Afghanistan, which not so long ago was considered ‘the good war’, with Iraq, the supposed ‘bad war’. In Afghanistan we directly responded to those who had attacked our nation by killing innocents in cold blood.”
Here’s Juan Cole’s take, which I think will help you understand how opinion on Afghanistan has changed.
http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120911/OPINION01/209110320#ixzz26AeHpnl9

While the initial U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was necessary, in order to destroy the some 40 al-Qaida training camps, the Bush administration erred in launching a long-term military occupation of that country. Afghans, proud tribesmen who drove the British empire and the Soviet Union from their lands, were never going to accept an American and NATO occupation. The longer the intensive U.S. troop presence lasted, the more resistance the Afghans offered. President Hamid Karzai’s team engaged in ballot-stuffing in the 2010 election, undermining American hopes of fostering democracy.

jgardner
jgardner
9 years ago

“When did [Afghanistan] become a bad war”
After we had successfully crippled the Afghani government and then decided to stay and try to rebuild the country… so about 6mo to 1yr after it began.
“but many–perhaps most–Americans will take security over freedom.”
Which is why Ben Franklin told us we deserve neither and will lose both.
“We didn’t “bring this on ourselves”, they brought it to us.”
9/11 Commission and the CIA disagree with you. They both admitted our interventionist policies in the Middle East set the table for this to happen — “blowback” is the term they used.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

“which I think will help you understand how opinion on Afghanistan has changed”
Russ, do you ever consider how pompous you sound in your posts? I agree with you on this issue and even I want to see you knocked back down to earth when you speak to people this way.

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

“Russ, do you ever consider how pompous you sound in your posts?”
What a shock… personal attacks.

Sammy in Arizona
Sammy in Arizona
9 years ago

The Conservatives celebrated during Bush and Cheney’s “shock and awe” bombing campaign, over a nation unable to defend itself, killing thousands of innocent people, including thousands of children.
Bush and company left enough spent uranium in the sand to injure or kill thousands more children and to generate a millennium of grotesque birth defects,
At the same time the wing-nuts back in the USA were blathering about the sanctity of life….

KenW
KenW
9 years ago

“Maybe, as 9/11 becomes lumped in with Pearl Harbor or even “Remember the Maine”, our nation will revert to a more innocent time.”
Mark,
I live near Pearl Harbor and I can tell you one thing, the reverence all world-wide people visiting Oahu have for Pearl Harbor will never be watered down by being lumped together with 9/11 or the sinking of the USS Maine.
These are three total different events and to even suggest they be the same or lumped together is disingenuous to each event and the people that were directly affected and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

KenW
KenW
9 years ago

ADDENDUM:
Mark should be Marc

Russ
Russ
9 years ago

Thanks, KenW. I was put off by the comparison to the sinking of the Maine in particular. I’m not sure Marc is aware that “Remember the Maine” is an example of how the press can gin up the case for war.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Did anyone ever prove who sank the Maine?
Speaking of remembering, 9/11 always reminds me of our omnipotent government. Granted the Kamikaze was ancient history, but, around 1990 Tom Clancy wrote a best seller that featured a disgruntled (have you ever met anyone who was “fully gruntled”?) Japanese flying a 727 into the Capitol Building and killing the President and Congress. So, the idea was old. Perhaps no one in Government reads best sellers, but it appears Arabs do. Now that the horse is out of the barn, we have TSA. Have they hired Tom Clancy?

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