11 September 2010

9 years later, still a big hole in the ground - that's progress

Nine years and this is all we have to show for it.

We've had nine years of compassion and sympathy, of remembrance and reflection. Nine years of feeling so damn bad for ourselves about 9/11.

Ask a second grader what they know about 9/11 and you probably won't get much, considering none of them were alive in 2001. They'll give you the basic gist their parents have talked about - the U.S. was attacked by terrorists who knocked down these two big buildings and it was very sad.

It was sad. The symbolic meaning of 9/11 is undeniable. The self-proclaimed "Greatest Country in the World" was shown to be very, very susceptible to the right kind of attack. Despite our vast economic, political, and militaristic wealth, a small group of extremists was able to destroy the tallest buildings in America. This was a wake-up call for everyone.

But now here we are, nine years later, and this nation is still groggy from that wake-up call.

The United States is a far worse country since 9/11. We've seen civil liberties stripped from citizens in the name of "national security." Our ludicrous federal government bureaucracy has swollen to an unfathomable (and incredibly inefficient) size. Patriotism has quickly transformed into a laughable political tool.

And the one building in downtown New York that anyone seems to care about is an Islamic community center.

As a country, we're too focused on the Islamic influence on 9/11. The United States is Islamophobic, and I'm not just talking about Koran-burning preachers or Michael Savage.

When I look back and think of the overall effects of 9/11, I can't hold much more contempt for those who acted out the attacks than I do for Professor Plum for his actions in the conservatory with the candlestick. The perpetrator is just another part of the overall equation. Instead of thinking about 9/11 in a universal sense, too many folks just like to focus on the Muslim part. While we couldn't just let those responsible get away with it (catching Professor Plum is part of the game after all), we shouldn't have neglected the many other swirling details and effects of the event.

How is our overall understanding of 9/11 any different from that of the aforementioned 2nd grader? Don't most of us just see 9/11 that way? Shouldn't we have advanced further as a country in 9 years to see see 9/11 as more than just Muslim terrorists who made us sad?

Part of our over-emphasis on the "bad guy," our perpetual preoccupation with Islam, is the comfort we get from our sense of victimization. It makes us feel better about ourselves and all that we do if we continue to believe that somebody had wronged us so much, and continues to pose the threat of wronging us again.

We need to stop feeling so fucking bad for ourselves all the time about 9/11. That sense of "woe is me" has led to nothing good. There are a lot more dead U.S. soldiers from wandering around a desert somewhere than the 3,000-ish civilians who died in the 9/11 attacks. The symbolic meaning of the day cannot be denied, but Hiroshima/Nagasaki this was not.

There's nothing wrong with remembering, but to have every September 11 just be a day where we commemorate the event and cry and feel sorry for our poor selves while there is still a huge hole in the ground means we've missed the point.


  1. The entire world stopped and held their collective breaths over ONE nutjob preacher hell-bent on burning Islam's Holy Book. THIS is life in the New Age. Are muslims around the world condemming us or persecuting us for the actions of a few? For the misguided zealotry of a washed up man and his brainwashed pack of disciples? No. Americans can board planes, build cultural centers and live their lives sans fear of persecution. The collective world gets that an entire nation isn't responsible for the actions of a radical fringe.

  2. You mention in your column that the United States is Islamophobic but unless I missed something you offered no proof of this. Let me see 3000 innocent American murdered in the name of Islam on 9/11 and nothing of any significance happens to the Islamic community in the United States. (Imagine if a Christian would have flown a plane into an important Islamic edifice in the name of Christ.) When a memorial service his held after the attacks, an Islamic cleric is asked to speak at the national cathedral.

    Perhaps you are speaking of the ground zero mosque. Is it appropriate to build a mosque near a place where 3000 Americans where murdered in the name of Islam? ( I said appropriate not legal)

    I liked your column better when you wrote about the Dodgers. Maybe you should use Curse of the Piazza for baseball and start a new blog for political commentary. You can call it “In Lock Step with My College Professors”. Feel free to use that name too, no charge.


  3. I don't believe in justifying my actions based on the potential actions of my peers, rivals, or enemies.

    Just as I shouldn't justify my own goodness compared to the guy down the street, the United States and Christianity shouldn't get a free pass because the other guys would have done worse. We should hold ourselves to a much better standard than that.

    Thanks for the offer, Pops. I'll throw it in with the other recommended titles, such as "Adults Just Don't Understand, Man" and "Ahmadinejad is my Homeboy."

  4. Rob I generally enjoy your writing, but take pretty big exception to the line that America is Islamophobic. Here Dennis Prager does a pretty good job addressing that point. Another poster above did a good job pointing out just how little backlash there is against Muslims as a whole.