two years later

Two years ago Jen shook me awake to tell me something horrible had happened. It didn’t sink in until much later. I suppose it’s still sinking in.

9/11 tributes and reflections are a dime a dozen, and I don’t have much to add to the chorus. Right now, I’ve had about enough cheap sentiment. I’m angry. Here’s what history will record about 9/11:

The fact that this administration, led by this President, was in power when the worst terrorist attack ever on the U.S. took place is one of the great tragedies of our time, a tragedy on par with the attack itself.

The attack, however horrific, presented an historical opportunity to create a genuine alliance of civilized nations, united against the barbarism that is growing among the disaffected peoples of the Middle East, fueled in part (only in part, but in part) by Western support for repressive governments there and a voracious appetite for the oil that props them up.

It presented an opportunity to make a real push for democracy and rule of law in parts of the world that desperately lack it. Even UN members that have traditionally dragged their feet due to their own economic interests in autocratic countries were rocked on their heels by 9/11, and receptive, to an unprecedented degree, to the establishment of new internationalist democratic norms and practices.

It presented an opportunity for reflection, and reconsideration of policies whose “realism” masked the fantasy that the world can be bettered through fear, violence and manipulation, however laudable the motives.

Instead this band of small, damaged men and their blank-slate leader sank more deeply into that fantasy. They took a historical opportunity and reacted with reptile paranoia, disrespecting the balance of powers and personal freedoms that represent what is best in their own country, stoking the worst fears and impulses of the populace for their own short-term political benefit, treating traditional allies with the arrogant disdain of a perpetually-threatened adolescent, lashing out violently in pursuit of long-held grudges rather than taking a fresh look at the world, and utterly squandering the astounding outpouring of fellow-feeling that swept across the world that September.

They have in virtually every respect made us _less safe_, more isolated and despised, than we were on 09/10/01. And we are getting less safe every day. I have a son, so it’s no longer an academic political matter for me. I want these men stopped and their ugly legacy reversed, if that is still possible. The memory of those who died on 9/11, and who die every day across the world from acts of violence spawned by petty men who do not suffer the consequences, has been debased when it should have been honored. I hope there is still time to respect their memory and our own better angels.

UPDATE: I just found a Michael Tomasky essay with the same theme. It’s worth reading.