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.