Evil and its aftermath

Like a lot of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about 9/11 and all that followed.  It is a sad, wretched tale, full of missteps and blunders.

It is also a heroic story, made bearable by the incredible sacrifice and fortitude of so many people — not least the soldiers and service members who have served on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But in so many terrible ways, I can’t help but think that — at least at first — the terrorists who attacked that day got what they wanted.

They sparked a terrible overreaction, leading to a clumsy series of military adventures abroad and expanding our political divides here at home.

A decade later, we’re all still living closer to Ground Zero than we like to think.  Our economy, our sense of ourselves as a people, our sense of living in a wounded society — they were all shaped by that day.

We talk about soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress.  Not to diminish their unique challenges, but I think our entire culture suffers from something similar.

Rather than deal with the fears and doubts that haunt us, we spent hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of precious lives overseas, lashing out, looking for revenge and something like closure.

All of which is understandable.

The attack that day in September was among the most savage and cruel acts of sheer, ignorant barbarism ever seen.

Looking again this week at video of the Twin Towers shot that terrible morning, I felt again that here was a new symbol of unambiguous evil, every bit as stark as the swastika or the burning cross.

Is it any wonder that such an awful, vile thing sent us reeling?

All of us who shared in that painful day — even in small ways, watching our televisions with friends and family — have stood now in the presence of the worst that the human psyche can produce.

The hope, of course, is that we have begun to recover, making better decisions.   Day by day, we recall a little bit of our natural optimism and the wisdom that are the only antidotes to evil.

We have also learned to protect ourselves in ways that are smarter, less intrusive and more fair.

Anyone who has read American history knows that all this has happened before.  We have been knocked down more times than we like to remember.

But in our clumsy, muddled way, we always find ways to stand back up again.  Ten years after 9/11, I think we’re finding our feet, finding our balance, taking first steps forward.

If the last decade belonged to that symbol of evil, those towers erupting in voluptuous flame, I’m guessing the next decade belongs to something far better and brighter and more enduring.

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15 Responses to “Evil and its aftermath”

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  1. oa says:

    I think this opinion violates the new opining rules.

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  2. verplanck says:

    oa,

    i agree. it’s also the best piece i’ve seen on here since the rules were discussed. coincidence? I think not.

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  3. myown says:

    I wish I could share Brian’s optimism. I certainly hope “the next decade belongs to something far better and brighter and more enduring.”

    But how many people are aware of the huge security apparatus, both government and private, that was created after 9/11 and the enormous cost (in dollars) and loss of freedom (eg, The Patriot Act) that continues?

    This was just on PBS:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/topsecretamerica/

    And here is another take on who won the “War on Terror”:

    http://nymag.com/news/9-11/10th-anniversary/frank-rich/

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  4. rockydog says:

    Loss of freedom. Such a tired argument.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    I pretty much agree with Brian. Now that we have reached the 10 year after point, my how time flies, maybe we can move forward.
    What happened was terrible and tragic. I remember my first reaction upon seeing the first plane fly into the WTC. “How could any pilot hit that building on a clear day?” But then there was the second plane and it became obvious something much worse than a blind pilot was involved.
    But now we need to move on.

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  6. myown says:

    rockydog,

    What’s tiring are hassles like these:

    http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/18372/20110909/u-s-canadian-border-changes-since-9-11

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  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Honestly, I’m so over Sept. 11. Our leaders at the time mishandled the response to a despicable criminal act and chose instead to sow fear among the American people and to use that fear to divide us even further.

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  8. Mervel says:

    You know though if you listen to many of the stories of true heroism that day, I am not sure you can say that somehow we lost, whatever that even means. http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/npr/140293993/slain-priest-bury-his-heart-but-not-his-love

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  9. Two Cents says:

    Mervel,
    that may be the silver lining, but i’m not sure it’s a win.

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  10. Pete Klein says:

    Not being a fireman, maybe I shouldn’t say anything but I have always wondered where the line is or should be drawn when it comes to entering a burning building.
    At what point (if any) does someone draw the line or have the authority to draw the line and say, “Everyone out now and no one enter from this point on.”?

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  11. Mervel says:

    But what does winning mean Two cents?

    If we have learned nothing it seems after trying and failing to subjugate two countries much less advanced than us and much poorer than us; we would realize that there is no such thing as “winning”, who won the Iraq war? What does that even mean?

    I think if these things destroy our spirit that would be losing and I don’t think that they have.

    Knuckle, I think though that we are at the point instead of trying to score points with 9/11 either way, we can look at a real event and real people and how to stand in the face of what we will all face, death.

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  12. Two Cents says:

    Mervel,
    I guess winning to me would not having to have a police state at every train station, bus station, and air port. Not having personal packages, knap-sacks, and shoes inspected if there is a hint of a terror warning.
    It’s like we’re all abused children who flinch everytime “dad” reaches across the table for the salt.
    We have to distrust, suspect, where under “normal” circumstances we might have chalked it up to diversity.
    The beauty, so to speak, of terrorism is it causes a reaction to a rumour, a threat, often without the need for a real action on their part. We can’t ignore or overlook. It causes us to segregate rather than integrate.
    It’s cost us billions of dollars to prepare to something that we have no idea of what it could be, and God forbid we don’t for fear of the consequences.
    It provides another avenue for those in our own fold, who wish to take advantage of these fears, to controll yet another aspect of our lives.
    It’s a decline of growth, a bloodclot.
    It’s put us in the stew with the rest of the world that we thought America was above, we were the place you could come to get away from the decline and rot and century old battles being fought by peoples who refused to get along. When we were criticised as being a “new” “young” country with no real old world culture, i always thought, well good then- considering bus bombings, adulterer stoning, theocratic societies, were far more advanced, you know, being older and having a well of true history to draw from.
    The Middle East is the oldest part of the world, the beginings of our civilization, and finally the sewage it has produced has overflowed into our yard.
    Death begins in the colon. The Middle East is the colon of civilization, and those fools are poisoning the rest of us, and have been for the 50 odd years i’ve been alive, anyway.
    Winning? i don’t know what it is either Mervel, but this aint it.
    I guess it’s like porn- i’ll know it when i see it.

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  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Two Cents, if you believe we are or ever have been any different than any one else you are simply wrong. Human beings are all the same. If there was evil in the hearts of the terrorists who caused 9/11 so there is evil in the hearts of those who caused the deaths of tens of times more in reaction to it. Each one of us who has not spoken out forcefully against the torture that was committed in our name, each one of us who has not protested vehemently against the unjustified war in Iraq, the indiscriminate use of land mines, the killings of tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people is guilty of keeping evil in our own heart. We are not very different than those we despise. There is simply some degree of detachment.

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  14. Two Cents says:

    Knuck-
    You’re right. We are all the same, at our worst and best, and then we are all special at the same time, no?
    I was focusing on how we are winning. Well, ranting actually.
    I agree with your points, but i’m really just tired of it all, as i get my boots on to go to work.

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  15. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I agree 100%.

    Putting on the work boots at 4:10 am? Ouch! Glad I got to sleep in till 7:00. My work boots wont go on until 7:30.

    I’ll be honoring 9/11 by getting some work done; something that didn’t happen 10 years ago today.

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