reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Category: Our Crisis of Cultural Confidence (Page 1 of 28)

9/11, Nineteen Years On

It’s a dramatically different world this year, in myriad ways that seem at once both obvious to all of us who have been muddling through them and too numerous to list. If there is any silver lining, perhaps it’s that large-scale foreign terrorism seems to have taken a pause, but only to be replaced by being terrorized by our fellow citizens in suspiciously coordinated violent and destructive rampages through our cities, while we simultaneously endure the combined threats of a viral pandemic, draconian lockdowns and ensuing economic hardships, and partly well-intentioned but nonetheless destructive abridgments of our freedom, autonomy, and ability to plan for the future.

I would not have remotely anticipated this new set of circumstances a year ago, nor I think could anyone. The world has given us an entirely new set of challenges to deal with, leaving prior battles that had seemed monumental and urgently important momentarily in the rearview mirror — on hiatus for now, I think, but not fundamentally solved nor gone. “2020” has come to eclipse “2001” in notoriety for the both sudden and sustained havoc it has wreaked, causing that former year of infamy to recede quietly into the past while our preoccupied minds have been mostly unaware it was happening.

It would be easy in this dramatically different time to forget what now seems like another era, disconnected from our present reality. But I will not, nor I think can we afford to. We have serious, unresolved issues related to the 9/11 attacks and the relative strength or weakness, unity or disunity of our resolve and response to them, that I expect will remain to be dealt with at some future date. Our cultural confidence and sense of self is being tested in different but not entirely unrelated ways for now, and the outcome of those present struggles is sure to have significant implications for our near-term future. While I remain resolved that we have worthwhile and important work to do rebuilding our cultural foundations in the here and now, my focus has of necessity also been on the larger long-term question of where we — as a frontier culture in need of new frontiers — will go from here. I have much more work to do on that, that’s been especially hard to make time for lately, but I have hope that determination and persistence will unite to make the necessary possible in the long run.

On this day, let us remember and honor the loved ones and fellow citizens we lost on that eerily clear September morning, as well as the “sheepdogs” and everyday heroes among us who ran toward danger and risked everything when called — on that day and in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed. Let us think on the resolve that is needed to maintain this Civilization of ours — this engine of well-being and sanctuary for people of good will — against persistent, determined forces that demand its submission, surrender, and subservience. May these hard times produce the resilient men and women we need, and may their efforts avert the self-inflicted decline that is, in the final sum, a greater danger than that any foreign enemy can hope to pose us. It’s going to take steady exertion and long-term dedication to the task, but I do believe a happy, resilient future waits to be claimed beyond this moment of gloom.

My Previous Years’ 9/11 Posts

2019: 9/11, Eighteen Years On

2018: 9/11, Seventeen Years On

2017: 9/11, Sixteen Years On

2016: 9/11, Fifteen Years On

2015: 9/11, Fourteen Years On ~ Fourteen Years Later: 9/11 Links

2014: 9/11, Thirteen Years On

2013: 9/11, Twelve Years On

2012: 9/11, Eleven Years On

2011: A Plea, Ten Years After: Please, Open Your Eyes ~ Ten Years Later: 9/11 Links

2010: 9/11: Two Songs

2009: Tomorrow is 9/11 ~ My Experience of September 11, 2001 ~ 9/11 Quotes

2008: 9/11, Seven Years On ~ 9/11, Seven Years On, Part 2 ~ 102 Minutes that Changed America

2007: 9/11, Six Years On

2006: Soon, Time Again to Reflect ~ 9/11 Observances ~ 9/11 Observances, Part 2

2005: I Remember

2004: Remembering and Rebuilding (republished here September 12th, 2014)

The World Trade Center Towers

The World Trade Center Towers

9/11, Eighteen Years On

Eighteen years seems an impossible amount of time to have passed. Eighteen years since Al Qaeda Jihadists murdered thousands by flying aircraft full of people into buildings full of people in New York City and Washington D.C. Eighteen years since people trapped on the upper floors of the burning World Trade Center towers leapt to their certain deaths rather than accept the fate their vile killers chose for them. Eighteen years since everyday heroes rose from our ranks aboard Flight 93 and in those burning buildings — risking and sacrificing all, so that others might live. The enduring sting of the memory is such that it hardy seems it could have been that long ago. And yet, here we are.

My thoughts are much the same as on last year’s anniversary. For better or worse, I don’t think I’ve learned anything new or surprising in the past year about the nature of what we’re up against or the state our own culture is in. This is a long war, a relentless grind, and it may be dedicated endurance as much as anything that sees us through. I reflect with resolve and humble gratitude on the fact that I am still here and able to fight for the future of a world that I love.

I will not forget.

My Previous Years’ 9/11 Posts

2018: 9/11, Seventeen Years On

2017: 9/11, Sixteen Years On

2016: 9/11, Fifteen Years On

2015: 9/11, Fourteen Years On ~ Fourteen Years Later: 9/11 Links

2014: 9/11, Thirteen Years On

2013: 9/11, Twelve Years On

2012: 9/11, Eleven Years On

2011: A Plea, Ten Years After: Please, Open Your Eyes ~ Ten Years Later: 9/11 Links

2010: 9/11: Two Songs

2009: Tomorrow is 9/11 ~ My Experience of September 11, 2001 ~ 9/11 Quotes

2008: 9/11, Seven Years On ~ 9/11, Seven Years On, Part 2 ~ 102 Minutes that Changed America

2007: 9/11, Six Years On

2006: Soon, Time Again to Reflect ~ 9/11 Observances ~ 9/11 Observances, Part 2

2005: I Remember

2004: Remembering and Rebuilding (republished here September 12th, 2014)

9/11, Seventeen Years On

There is more writing and exploring of ideas that I’d like to do here, at some point. I’ve been investing my time in other endeavors: my work, building a treehouse with my kids and spending a “Dad Camp” week with them, helping out in our Cub Scout pack, and building my mental and physical resilience through regular exercise and Tae Kwon Do training. These are things I cherish and count myself fortunate and grateful to be able to do.

I’ve also taken a more stoic view of things in recent years. As the span of time since that terrible day grows ever longer, the pace of change in our cultural state, or my perception of it, seems to have slowed. Things seem to have settled into a momentary stasis or more viscous flow, and my attention has shifted to the very long term: to where this Civilization of ours may be headed over the coming decades and centuries. The primary question on my mind has become, as I related in some form last year: What happens when a culture that believes fanatically in itself, and in its right to kill, subdue, or enslave unbelievers in its unhesitating quest for dominance, comes into contact with a culture that has been taught to fear, distrust, doubt, and even dislike itself? Where do things go from there?

There is tension in this culture of ours, to be sure: between the forces of submission and surrender, or the impulse to turn away from confrontation with the brutal enemy we face, and the Remnant among us who stand ready to fight with indomitable spirit for the civilization that is near and dear to our hearts. The key question seems to be how that tension will play out. I no longer worry that the strong timbers of this structure will weaken. What seems less certain is how the burden of persistent rot and termite activity will affect the structure as a whole. Are we headed for a schism of some sort in the long run? What happens if the load-bearing timbers get up and walk away?

I remember with clarity, on this day: the brutality of the bastards who attacked us (I see no reason to mince words). The thousands murdered in the World Trade Center towers and aboard Flights 11 and 175 that were crashed deliberately into them with full loads of fuel. The noble heroism of the first responders and everyday citizens who sacrificed to rescue others from the burning inferno of the twin towers. Those who stepped up without being called on, and independently thwarted the plans of the Flight 93 hijackers. The hole in the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania where their struggle came to an end. The people who leapt to their deaths from the doomed WTC. The people murdered when Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon. The sight of still-smoldering wreckage being cleared from “Ground Zero” two weeks later. And moving forward from there, the slow discovery that all my preconceived expectations about the superficiality and transience of our cultural weaknesses were mistaken. That the intentional undermining of our foundations over decades had put us in much worse shape than I’d ever realized, and that we have much work to do to find our strength again.

I cannot account for things yet unknown to me, for the particulars of where we’re headed and how all of this will be resolved. But I am certain of the strength and resilience in my own heart, determined that we shall stand and find our way again, and grateful for those kindred spirits who I know journey through the storm with me, seeking our way home with indomitable perseverance.

My Previous Years’ 9/11 Posts

2017: 9/11, Sixteen Years On

2016: 9/11, Fifteen Years On

2015: 9/11, Fourteen Years On ~ Fourteen Years Later: 9/11 Links

2014: 9/11, Thirteen Years On

2013: 9/11, Twelve Years On

2012: 9/11, Eleven Years On

2011: A Plea, Ten Years After: Please, Open Your Eyes ~ Ten Years Later: 9/11 Links

2010: 9/11: Two Songs

2009: Tomorrow is 9/11 ~ My Experience of September 11, 2001 ~ 9/11 Quotes

2008: 9/11, Seven Years On ~ 9/11, Seven Years On, Part 2 ~ 102 Minutes that Changed America

2007: 9/11, Six Years On

2006: Soon, Time Again to Reflect ~ 9/11 Observances ~ 9/11 Observances, Part 2

2005: I Remember

2004: Remembering and Rebuilding (republished here September 12th, 2014)

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