The ritual remains the same each year: everyone recalls where they were and what they were doing when they learned terrorists attacked America on September 11, 2001.
For those of us who made a political transition from Left to Right over the last decade, this reminiscence has the potential for an extra shot of sorrow. We must remember not just where we were, but who we were and how 9/11 affected us at the time.
And it’s on this latter point that I really wish I could forget. But I still have my journals from that period and a copy of the op/ed column I wrote for the school paper that morning. I presented the naive, do-gooder “liberal” message of the time: we should not pay any attention to the ideas of the crazy people who committed this crime, we should just focus on mourning the victims. Hijacking the media to broadcast their message and forcing us to consider it is exactly what the terrorists want. And we shouldn’t take our enemies seriously, because (as the media experts and the president assured us and I would later argue, too) they were fringe extremists misinterpreting a benign religion of peace that posed no real threat to America.
Eleven years later and I no longer advocate that we should ignore evil ideas. And I’m embarrassed of the person I used to be who did.
So on this 9/11 instead I look forward, and pose different questions: if 9/11 had never happened, then where would you be today? Or rather, who would you be today?
9/11 rewrote our lives. I realize now, for example, that 9/11’s chilling effect on the economy decreased the levels of tourism in the Bahamas, prompting my future mother-in-law to move my future-wife and her brother back to the United States.
Are there other families out there who would not exist if Osama bin Laden had not continued Sayyid Qutb’s war against America? Are there children who would not have been born if not for the imperial war of conquest initiated against us? Eleven years later are we ready to start understanding what it means that war is the Father of Us All?
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