October Thoughts

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September 11

I had a brief moment of near agreement with George Will when he pointed out that the 10th anniversary of September 11 was observed much more intensely than the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

The most interesting question is not how America in 2011 is unlike America in 2001 but how it is unlike what it was in 1951. The intensity of today’s focus on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 testifies to more than the multiplication of media ravenous for content, and to more than today’s unhistorical and self-dramatizing tendency to think that eruptions of evil are violations of a natural entitlement to happiness. It also represents the search for refuge from a decade defined by unsatisfactory responses to Sept. 11.

Aside from Will’s curdled snip at “a natural entitlement to happiness” — a right to the pursuit of happiness wasn’t invented last week, George — I do like the line about a search for refuge from a decade of unsatisfactory responses to 9/11. Of course, Will’s ideas of what would have made a “satisfactory” response are different from mine, and the rest of Will’s column is his usual overwrought verbiage dump.

It might be that the September 11 remembrance was more a media event than a heartfelt national observance. I went to a multi-faith memorial last night held in a community in which several of the 9/11 dead had lived, and attendance was so-so. Maybe people preferred to stay home and watch 9/11 porn retrospsectives on TV.

One of the more interesting retrospective articles from the Washington Post was a pundit score card. It looks back at what the gasbags were saying ten years ago to judge who got it right and who got it wrong.

Some of the “wrongs” surprised me. This pro-torture op ed from November 2001 was allegedly written by the usually level-headed Jonathan Alter, although I see his name is not on it now. And Michael Moore exhibited a bad case of American exceptionalist myopia by declaring the terrorist attack was a reaction to the result of the 2000 presidential election.

Some of the most interesting, or at least significant, reactions are from October 2001.

Max Boot’s October 2001 declaration that the world was hungering for an American Empire is not, unfortunately, in a class by itself. Someday historians may decide that, in some ways, Iraq was to America what Russia was to Napoleon. We are a much diminished nation now, although some people have yet to realize that.

In another October 2001 column by Fawaz Gerges, now a professor at the London School of Economics, wrote that “many Muslims suspected the Bush administration of hoping to exploit this tragedy to settle old scores and assert American hegemony in the world.” Professor Gerges saw this before I did.

One October 2001 observation not mentioned in the Washington Post was by Buddhist scholar David Loy, quoted in a talk by Zen teacher Taigen Leighton.

Loy says, ” President Bush declared that the United States has been called to a new worldwide mission to rid the world of evil.” Bush said, “The government is determined to rid the world of evil-doers. Our land of freedom now has a responsibility to extirpate the world of its evil. We may no longer have an evil empire to defeat but we have found a more sinister evil that will require a long-term, all-out war to destroy.”

Loy writes, “When Bush says he wants to rid the world of evil, alarm bells go off in my mind, because that is what Hitler and Stalin also wanted to do. I’m not defending either of those evil-doers, just explaining what they were trying to do. What was the problem with Jews that required a final solution? The earth could be made pure for the Aryan race only by exterminating the Jews, the impure vermin who contaminated it. Stalin needed to exterminate well-to-do Russian peasants to establish his ideal society of collective farmers. Both were trying to perfect this world by eliminating its impurities. The world could be made good only by destroying its evil elements. Paradoxically, then, one of the main causes of evil in this world has been human attempts to eradicate evil.”

Loy continues, “What is the difference between Bin Laden’s view and Bush’s? They are mirror opposites. What Bin Laden sees as good, an Islamic jihad against an impious and materialistic imperialism, Bush sees as evil. What Bush sees as good, America the defender of freedom, Bin Laden sees as evil. They are two different versions of the same holy war between good and evil.”

I take it that Loy caught some heat from other theologians for writing that in October 2001. But it stands up pretty well now.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. c u n d glag  •  Sep 12, 2011 @11:29 am

    Maybe I’m unpatriotic, but I didn’t watch a single second of any of the memorials.
    I had the football games on, but really didn’t watch them either. They were more for background noise. Beside, my Giants stunk up the joint…
    I was kind of bummed out all day long. And I can’t even tell you why. Maybe I felt like having a one-man pity-party, thinking about how much this country has changed in 10 short years.

    And even though I bought the NY Times yesterday, I didn’t read any of it, but I will today.
    And yesterdays Daily News had a piece by Pete Hamill, one of the best recent newspaper writers, and a piece by Jimmy Breslin, one of the greatest of all time, that I want to read later today.

    And as for that pundit score card, I wish it was more like a real scorecard. You know.
    Correct W

  2. c u n d glag  •  Sep 12, 2011 @11:33 am

    Maybe I’m unpatriotic, but I didn’t watch a single second of any of the memorials.
    I had the football games on, but really didn’t watch them either. They were more for background noise. Beside, my Giants stunk up the joint…
    I was kind of bummed out all day long. And I can’t even tell you why. Maybe I felt like having a one-man pity-party, thinking about how much this country has changed in 10 short years.

    And even though I bought the NY Times yesterday, I didn’t read any of it, but I will today.
    And yesterdays Daily News had a piece by Pete Hamill, one of the best recent newspaper writers, and a piece by Jimmy Breslin, one of the greatest of all time, that I want to read later today.

    And as for that pundit score card, I wish it was more like a real scorecard. You know: “Right v. Wrong v. Tie,” with numbers. Something like this:
    Krugman 454 – 14 – 2
    Krauthammer 11 – 457 – 2
    Kristol 0 – 470 – 0

    And that’s just the “K’s.”

  3. joanr16  •  Sep 12, 2011 @1:29 pm

    I too avoided all the schmaltz on television.

    As for regrettable words spoken soon after the original event, for me nothing tops my brother’s comment while watching the National Cathedral service attended by Bush, Clinton, and Al Gore and his short-lived beard: “I’m not sure Gore would’ve been better leading us through this than Bush, if Gore had been elected.”

    Well, never mind that Gore was elected; by now my brother has eaten those words 10,000 times over: with salsa, with whipped cream, with maple syrup, with steak sauce. Sometimes he just sees a certain smirky look on my face, and starts chewing out of habit.

    By October 2004, my brother was honking and waving at motorists with those “No W”-symbol stickers on their cars. I was in the back seat in suburban K.C. when the anti-Bush driver ahead of us got out of his car at a red light, ran back and handed my brother a sticker of his own. He put it in the window the minute we got home.

  4. Swami  •  Sep 12, 2011 @2:21 pm

    It looks back at what the gasbags were saying ten years ago to judge who got it right and who got it wrong.

    I got it right!…The reason they attacked the World Trade Center is because they hate us for our freedoms…and to a lesser degree the desire to implement the start of the coming Grand Caliphate. What more does an astute American need to know?

    This morning I read a headline about the commemoration activities at the WTC.. The headline read: 9/11 Memorial ‘Will do what the terrorists tried to prevent’..Then reading further into the article it mentioned that a pre-approved pass was required to view the memorial and that all people in attendance were subject to the same screening process as is used in the airports..empty the contents of your pockets,remove shoes , belts, and any metal objects then proceed through an x-ray machine… To me it just seems ironic, but than again, I’ve never been one to easily grasp complex analysis.

  5. moonbat  •  Sep 12, 2011 @4:31 pm

    Alarm bells went off in my head ten years ago, when Bush announced it was America’s aim to rid the world of evil. I was unaware that Stalin and Hitler had articulated the same aim. What made me tremble was not so much the genocidal consequences of statements like these (as awful as they are), but how juvenile can you get? It’s the height of immaturity to not be able to see the evil in your heart or in your own country, and to think it’s All Out There. Of course, this just about defines the everyday stance of the right winger vis a vis the world.

    Frightening that such a child was president, for two whole terms, in command of all this country’s resources to waste on such an aim, let alone for all the bloodshed it created. Pursuing such futility (if it was more than just speechifying) is a large part of why we are a diminished nation.

    Besides the media carnival, I’m certain that a lot of the difference between 1951 and now, is the fact that WW2 had a definite end. This war is still winding on, slowly bleeding us to death, just as Bin Laden envisioned.

  6. Bonnie  •  Sep 12, 2011 @7:45 pm

    Something that seems to be forgotten is that during the day of 9/11, it was being predicted that there might be as many as 10,000 people dead. However, it was finally announced that 3,000 were dead. I personally was so greatful to learn that the predictions did not come true. I wonder how many of the first responders have died in the last 10 years resulting from the toxic conditions. But, in the end, as shocking as it was, it did not turn out to be another Pearl Harbor or Civil War or World War. And, the U.S. response was totally inappropriate. It was a revengeful response not a defensive response.

  7. Swami  •  Sep 13, 2011 @4:38 pm


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