I wanted to write something about 9/11 today, even though most anything worth saying has been said and said again many times over the years. I think in the end my hero Charlie Pierce got it right when he wrote that “the sad, lasting legacy of that day 14 years ago today, and of all the different things that have been made of it since then, is that it is the day that America finally went mad.”
It’s hard to refute that, from where I sit. Like a nose-punched bully, we ran rampant, and the damage we did to ourselves and the world will take a very long time to repair. We are now an America that’s tortured, that’s executed our own citizens by drone strike without due process of law. We spent a trillion dollars to go to war with a nation that didn’t have anything to do with the attack (and continued our strong alliance with the nation most of the hijackers were actually from), and made room for the Islamic State to come into being when we left at the behest of the government we installed. Domestically, we went from a proto-fascist state where folks with the wrong t-shirts were escorted away from political rallies to a failing state whose political process has been hijacked by a faction who doesn’t believe government should be allowed to govern. And those are just the highlights.
Despite the patriotic memes in my facebook feed, I don’t want to remember 9/11. I don’t want to remember the fear and the pain and the determination to exact vengeance.
No, I want to remember the days and weeks after, when the divisions between us fell away. When we weren’t Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives but Americans united by grief, shocked out of our petty disputes and tribalism by this unthinkable enormity. I want to remember how we all came together, how the world was ready to rally behind us. I want to remember the moment when it seemed possible we could make something good out of this horrible tragedy, when our common humanity united us and we were kinder and more real with each other.
A lot has happened in the fourteen years since then, and those days when what united us was stronger than what divided us seem very far away now. But it’s important we remember them. It’s vital to our well-being, both as a nation and as individual human beings. Because we’re all in this together, whether we remember it or not.