On September 11, 2001 I was just entering my third year at the University of Southern California and I awoke to my roommate watching CNN and seeing the endlessly repeated footage of planes flying into the World Trade Center towers. Over the next few hours there were confused reports of initial fears and responses, a swift retribution on Afghanistan and a long (and ultimately successful) search for Osama Bin Laden. But I still don’t have a clue about how I think and feel about the events or their aftermath.
For me (and no doubt for many others) there is a sense of pride in some of the heroes of that terrible day, like the brave passengers of the doomed United Flight 93, who refused the fate of dhimmitude and charged the hijackers of that flight, which ended up downed near one of my family’s old farms in rural Pennsylvania, or like the first responders who sought to save lives after the initial impact of the planes in the towers, many of whom paid for their nobility with their lives. Along with that pride in those who acted heroically there is a sense of anger at those whose hostility to Western civilization and the United States led them to declare warfare on largely innocent civilians who for the most part are not particularly imperialistic people in the first place.
Along with that anger towards the original terrorists is also an anger at the political use of the events of 9/11 to increase the power of government, when government was basically impotent on the day itself. Instead of harnessing the power of the people and encouraging them to be responsible for their own safety, we have gotten stuck with endless lines for security at airports, endless restrictions on what we can bring on planes, and endless regulations like the Patriot Act that give government intelligence more power to use corruptly and more information to be confused and inundated with. And all of that makes us not a bit safer.
Nor that does that exhaust the targets of my ire. I also feel deeply angry at those whose blind political partisanship led them to accuse the Bush administration of plotting and planning the events of 9/11, giving the terrorists a carte blanche and focusing their anger on our own government. Instead of uniting us against common threats—whether it is our corrupt culture that we export abroad and that eats us like a cancer within, or whether it is the treat of militant Islam with its barbaric Sharia law, its bigoted medieval worldview, and its deep hatred of the West both within and without—we have only grown increasingly divided against ourselves. And thus to my pride and anger is added grave concern.
Part of this grave concern is related to the fact that neither 9/11 nor Katrina nor any of the other many and grave disasters that have attacked our nation in the last decade seem to have prompted our nation to any great deal of soul searching about our rejection of God’s law (for I am a firm believer in the full applicability of the Torah in all walks of life). The fact that many of the disasters seem straight from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 does not seem to trouble or concern my people, and this concerns me. I love my nation, I love Western civilization, and I hate to see my own nation and Israel and other nations I care for deeply imperiled because of their deliberate rejection of God’s law and stubborn refusal to repent. For God will not be mocked forever, and it grieves me that I might live to see the destruction of my beloved country due to the folly of its leaders and people.
I also feel a bit confused about the aftermath of 9/11. Why on earth did we declare a war on terror? Mere men cannot make war on the evil spirits that drive men to desire to terrorize and oppress their fellow brethren. We can make war on a state, but we cannot wage effective war against items like drugs or attitudes like terror (though we can on networks of drug traffickers or terrorists, only to see new ones rise up to take their place). We would have been wiser to accept that the world is a risky place, that some people hate us, and to encourage our people to be vigilant and watchful in light of those risks. Instead we sought the illusion of safety through technology and regulations rather than taking those straightforward steps that would have made us safer by making us a little more wary and observant as individual citizens. And our faith in government and lack of interest in taking personal responsibility betrays us time and time again, but we never seem to learn.
So, it is ten years after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, and I still don’t know how to make sense of them, or how to gauge the balance of my ever-conflicted thoughts and feelings about those events or our response (or lack thereof) to it. But I suppose I am not alone in not having a clue. It would appear, looking at the forgetfulness of those few heroes of that day, or of our blind faith or blind hostility in government (depending on whether ‘our people’ are in office or not), or of our nation’s hopelessly muddled response to those events, that there are very few people, if any, who really do have a clue. And they’re not telling.