27 April 2008

How easily we forget

Americans forget things.

We forget where we put our car keys.

We forget our spouse's birthday.

We forget how important things like personal responsibility and hard work are.

We forget the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents that allow us to have the life we enjoy today.

And lately, we've started forgetting that there are people in the world who want nothing more than to kill us and our children.

Now, I'm not trying to scare you. I don't want you to live your life in fear. But I do want you to remember.

September 11, 2001 was a major event in American history. For the days and weeks and months following the deaths of over 2,000 Americans on American soil, we were united. There were no conservatives or liberals. No Democrats or Republicans. No Southerners or Californians.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought us together, because we all felt the same.

Now, many people believe that that feeling was exploited. People used it to sell records, others co-opted it to promote political agendas.

And in the last seven years, the phrase "9/11" has been used so much that many people are sick of hearing it. I sympathize with that sentiment. It's annoying when certain ideas are thrown around so frequently they lose all meaning.

Another factor in this annoyance is that U.S. soil has remained attack-free for the last seven years. The longer we go without a bombing or hijacking, the easier it is to feel that 9/11 was a fluke. That there's no way anything like that will ever happen again.

Forgive me if I sound like a fear-mongerer, but it can happen again. It only took a handful of men a few minutes to kill over 2,000 men, women and children. The biggest wall ever built cannot prevent terrorist attacks indefinitely.

The same phenomenon is happening with the Holocaust. The farther away we get from the discovering of Buchenwald and Auschwitz, the more voices there are that cry out "it never happened!" Holocaust deniers have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and 9/11 deniers have Loose Change.

The above examples are extreme. There are few Americans who buy into the conspiracy theories about these events. There are many more Americans who are just tired. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan outlined the frustration many people feel about being searched at airports.

And, as always: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government’s way of showing “fairness,” of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

Of course, airport security could just as easily search only Arab-looking men between the ages of 18 and 35. But we all know the ruckus that would raise from the ACLU and other organizations.

But the real issue here is that Noonan never once mentions the reality of a terrorist threat. Never once gives any amount of credit to the idea that these searches have actually prevented the loss of American lives. She's just tired of being searched, tired of being judged "guilty until proven innocent." The hassle of a few more minutes at the airport is too much of a burden to put up with any longer.

Another example of this mentality comes from humor columnist Eric D. Snider. In his latest column he tells of his contempt for CNN talking head Lou Dobbs.

...Lou Dobbs is not happy with that. He wants the Mexican border walled up NOW, and he wants all cargo entering U.S. ports inspected NOW. The reason he wants all of this NOW is September 11. He mentioned September 11 three times in the interview with Thompson. Of course, the September 11 attacks had nothing to do with the unsecured Mexican border, nor with unscreened cargo coming into the United States. But if you mention September 11 a lot, it helps you make your point much more dramatically and convincingly, and no one can really argue with you. September 11 is the new Hitler.

Snider clearly sees the concept of September 11 as a new incarnation of Godwin's Law. Something to be laughed at, something not to be taken seriously, something to be the target of our exasperation.

I recognize Snider is trying to be funny, but not once does he acknowledge the fact that 9/11 really happened.

He exemplifies our national forgetfulness when it comes to that day.

I am not a fan of the remembrance of 9/11 being used in a cynical, manipulative way. I also become frustrated with those who say "if you're not 100% behind everything the U.S. government is doing in the Middle East, you're against us!' The world is more gray than black and white.

Nor do I support 9/11 being used as a reason for every action taken in the War on Terror.

But to trivialize the real danger we face is just stupid, in my opinion. It's the equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand, listening to our iPods, and hoping everything is fine on the outside.

I firmly believe that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It's hard enough to avoid repeating our own mistakes even if we pay attention to the lessons of the past.

And it's nearly impossible to avoid future tragedies if we turn a blind eye to what we experienced not even a decade ago.

I'm not asking you to live in a state of constant fear. But maybe, we as a people could buck up a little. Maybe, the next time TSA asks you to take off your shoes, you could do so without complaining.

Our parents and grandparents went through a lot more. Our sacrifices are so small in comparison as to be laughable.

So remember. It's a small thing that can change a lot.

Just ask any man who's forgotten his anniversary. :)


Aliese Fry said...

So I just have to share that this is my favorite "non-family/political" post you've ever done! Can I copy and forward it to people? Definitely one of your better ones...

Brandon said...

That's fine, as long as you attribute it correctly. :)

Glad you like it.

Jimmy said...

Egads. The image of the smoke coming out of the towers still hurts to see. It's strange how vivid that morning is. And yeah, agreed. People forget. It's almost a shame the FBI, CIA, and military are doing such a good job at preventing more terrorist attacks. It'd be crazy to see a list of every foiled plot since the fall of 2001. I'm sure there are thousands.

MooKoo Joe said...

I absolutely love it. I was young when this happened, but I still remember the panic and unity it all brought. You're right, Americans do forget to easily. Thanks for writing this.