Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've been sampling blog reactions to the sixth anniversary of 9/11 from the left and right of the blogosphere, and it's pretty much what I expected, since it doesn't seem to change from year to year. From the left we get, "America sucks, America is led by fools, America is doomed--and deserves to be." From the right we get "Never forgive, never forget."

Helpful, all.

Actually, I have no problem with "Never forget," but then, I'm a Jew, and it's my job never to forget. Of course, one look at the Arab world can tell us what the downside of that attitude is. Keeping your past alive is one thing; staring at it for so long that you confuse it with your present is another.

"Never forgive" is troubling. It's amazing to me how trippingly from the tongue it falls, across this allegedly Christian nation of ours. Never forgive? Really? Never?

I understand the emotions behind the statement, especially in our current context, where our political leadership has made it impossible for us to take correct action and Make Things Right. Had we stayed full force in Afghanistan, pursued Osama and Al Qaeda into Tora Bora and across the globe as we originally promised--relentlessly and to that organization's obliteration--and had we seen some success in that endeavor--I don't think we would be in a "Never Forgive" frame of mind. When justice has been served, forgiveness becomes more palatable. In fact, it is absolutely necessary, for the culture to be able to move on.

But that's not where we are, is it? Terrible things happened to us, and we feel the wound still open. Even as we inflict terror and destruction on other people, we realize that our efforts are mis-aimed (if you're on the left) or at the very least ineffective (if you're awake).

Here's how I'd prefer to formulate the mantra: "Never forget, never surrender, never assume."

I know "never surrender" sounds neanderthal-ish to some. To me, it's more of an internal command. It means hold fast to your ideals, even in the face of difficult day-to-day reality. It means pursue the right, even when you feel hopeless.

But I don't feel comfortable saying that without adding "Never assume." Because we've seen what happens when a group of people holds to "Never surrender" without thinking. And it's awful. "Never assume" means that you must always reconsider and re-evaluate to make sure that your analysis of the situation is correct, and that your actions are, and continue to be, on the side of truth and justice. Because we're human and we make mistakes--we rush into things with limited facts and limited vision.

And that's fine, sometimes--that's reality. We can't always dither and talk and wring our hands endlessly, refusing to act until we Know Everything. Sometimes we have to leap. So fine--we leap. We act. But that doesn't mean we have to turn off our brains, as this administration has done. "Stay the course" is nonsense if it isn't said after reconsideration and analysis.

And just to be clear: I'm not wringing my hands, and moaning with indecision, and saying "America is doomed and should be." I know what country the people of the world flock to for educational or economic or political opportunity--and it's not Saudi Arabia.

And I know what 9/11 was all about, in very real and concrete terms, because I was in New York at the time. And my wife was in Lower Manhattan at the time. And I spent the day watching the television, waiting for the next cell phone call from her, and wondering--in between calls--whether she was alive. Believe me--I am not in a forgiving mood, even six years later.

But when Osama bin Laden releases a new video that lays out an argument against us that is clearer and more rational and more logical than any of the puffery or demagoguery or platitudes put out by our own leadership, then yes, I am angry at our leadership. Furious, actually. Because I can't believe that, six years later, we're enabling that jackal to sound like a statesman.

We have squandered so much in the last six years--in blood, in treasure, and in international good will. And still the idiotic juggernaut rolls on--unaccountable, unswayable, and deaf to all the world.

There is so much we could have done--so much we needed to do. So much that will still need to be done, even if we give up and run away.

"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall" has been replaced by "Let the heavens fall, whether justice is done or not."

Are you okay with that? I'm not.

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