The Forgetting of 9/11

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

How did this coordinated mass murder become so irrelevant?

I have written a lot about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 over the years, including a book on United Flight 93, which went down a few hours from my home in central Pennsylvania. In much of that work, I argued for the importance of that day not only in its human and material cost but also in what it represented as a contribution to the American civil religion. Core aspects of traditional American national identity—masculine heroism, a democratic citizenry prepared to stand in its defense, the deeply spiritual values that were present at the country’s origin—were displayed that day. I believed our collective memory of the response to terror by our heroic co-citizens would be sustained in our culture and perhaps even point the way to a return to previous unity.


The truth is that the farther we get from the date, the more evident it becomes that unifying this country is likely an impossible mission. In fact, the commonly claimed temporary unity produced in the wake of the attacks was itself, alas, illusory. It was not even fleeting. It was never real. The massive rift in this country, only too apparent now, was already visible then, but I and many others hoped our collective response to this national tragedy could bind up those old wounds and move us toward healing our broken culture.

When the planes hit the buildings that September day, I was just at the start of my second year as an assistant professor at a liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania.  In my first year, I had already learned a good deal about how things operated in environments like this one. I had come from a big research university, where it was relatively easy to get lost in the bureaucratic immensity of the place and fail to see the low-level cultural features of contemporary academic life that are unavoidable in smaller institutions. In my new job, I had quickly seen that some faculty, in my own department and elsewhere, were centrally motivated by ideological agendas and not anything remotely connected to the pursuit of Truth. They exercised considerable power over me, an untenured newcomer, at that point, and so I surveyed the landscape relatively silently, taking notes, observing. But I noticed, when I stopped into the school’s bookstore, that many of my colleagues were typically assigning books by advocates and activists rather than scholars. I heard from students some of what went on in other classrooms, and some of it was clearly directed not at teaching the Western canon but at undermining it.

This was already old news for those aware of the culture by then, of course. The culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s had left all the evidence of a system of higher education wholly off the rails, but there were still some older heads around to push things in the direction of balance even if they did not suffice to fully move the scale to the mid-point. So, it was possible to be hopeful that things might change.


Then, on September 12, 2001,  one of the other professors in my department posted an email message to the members of the department, calling for peace and reconciliation with the people who had carried out the attacks and stating that our violent history was the cause of the retributive strikes against us and that we deserved this counterblow. This person asserted that the best thing we could do was to come to a collective reckoning with our own malevolent role in world affairs and to spend any resources we had on the poor populations of the countries from which the terrorists had sprung, from which they always, invariably spring.

Several others echoed and approved the sentiment. This was the day after the attacks, with thousands of corpses yet unburied.

I responded, asking them why they believed such an approach would be successful. I was told that war had never accomplished anything. When I listed a few of the things war plainly has accomplished, with saving Europe from Nazism at the top of my list, I was reminded that innocent people had died in that and in all wars, so they couldn’t possibly have been just. And, in any event, the United States had profited from our victory in the war, which made it still more impossible that anything we did in that affair could be seen as morally correct.


When I realized that no resolution of the impasse was forthcoming, and fearing a bit that I was taking professional risks without any real possibility of a good outcome, I asked my interlocutors at least to remember that the destructive evidence of the attacks was still smoking in New York City and Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Given that fact, and that we didn’t even yet know how many of our fellows were lying dead in those places, perhaps they might measure their statements in that light, at least for a little while.  I was told that none of us was innocent of guilt in what had happened.

In the emotional fervor of the days to come, I put that exchange aside and tried to concentrate on the national effort to mourn the dead. But it should have been clear already that people with the views that had been expressed by my interlocutors were not interested in trying to figure out how to unify the country. In the moment of the country’s greatest tragedy in at least a half-century, they leapt up not to defend but to denounce it.

Twenty-one years later, the divide has only widened and deepened.


Continue reading this article at American Mind.


Are you fed up? Are you worried that America in rapidly sliding into a neo-Marxist state by the radical left in control of Washington with historically narrow majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and an Executive controlled by unnamed far leftists in place of a clinically incompetent President Biden? They are desperate to keep power and complete their radical progressive agenda that will change America and our liberty forever.

Americans just witnessed the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 without one Republican vote in the U.S. Senate and House (just as Obamacare was passed in 2010). The IRS  will be hiring 87,000 new agents, many armed, to terrorize American taxpayers.

Americans witnessed the FBI raid at the Trump Mar-A-Lago home and property of President Trump, truly a first in all of American history. We know what that is about. 

It is undeniable that the Democrat Party and the administrative state (the executive branches of the DOJ, FBI, IRS, et al) are clear and present dangers to our Republic and our liberty as they increasingly veer further away from the rule of law and the Constitution. What is the solution? At this critical juncture, there is only one action we can all take.

The only viable and timely solution at this critical point is to vote – yes, vote correctly and smartly to retake the U.S. House and Senate on November 8th and to prepare the way to retake the White House in two years. Vote and help everyone you know to vote. Please click the TAKE ACTION link below – we must vote correctly and in great numbers to be sure our votes are counted to diminish the potential for the left to rig and steal the midterms and the 2024 elections as they are clearly intending to do after their success in 2020.



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