Roger L. Simon

The last five years - looking at 9/11

9/11 changed my life forever. I think when I watched those planes striking the Twin Towers I had a suspicion it would. Almost immediately I sensed that things would never be the same. And they haven’t been. My relatively sedate existence as a novelist and screenwriter ended, no matter how I fought to hang onto it, to be replaced by that of a kind of literary activist I had never anticipated being, either in its form or its point of view. First this blog, then Pajamas Media. They both exist because of 9/11. There is no greater reason.

In a sense 9/11 freed me from the narcissistic self-involvement and vicissitudes of an artist’s life at the same time that it depressed me and continues to depress me. Like my friend Michael Ledeen I am filled with rage at the mainstream media and my old comrades on the left, but my reaction to this anger may be slightly different from his. It is not vengeance for 9/11 I seek, but victory for our civilization. For this reason I am all the more depressed. Here is what I mean: I think the political extremes of our culture are so mired in self-justification that they cannot see clearly enough to win the war. In some cases they do not even see the war. And the situation appears to be getting worse, rather than better. The recent debate over who is to blame for 9/11, exacerbated by a turgid miniseries of all things, is not only pointless but hugely destructive. It looks backwards in the most mindless way while continuing to divide us. And make no mistake about it – our society is too thoroughly divided for one part to win this war by itself, especially against an enemy united by a monolithic belief system (or two monolithic belief systems, if you separate Sunnis and Shia).

Those of us who voted for Bush need at least a portion of those who voted for Kerry on our side to defeat this enemy. But that hasn’t happened. Of course we could blame the mainstream media for this (and, yes, many of them are wretched) or the dim bulb crowd. But blame gets you nowhere, except the dubious honor of proclaiming yourself to be “right.” It doesn’t get the job accomplished. So what do we do? Not easy is it. Do we have to sit here and wait for another 9/11, perhaps even a bigger one, before our society is united? Depressing thought, isn’t it? Maybe too depressing for me, particularly since that second 9/11 might so big it would be more than we bargained for, decimating our economy or, worse, bringing nuclear winter or illness to many thousands of people. On this five year memorial day, the only way I can see to lighten my mood is to tell myself to continue to write and to argue with my political opponents, endeavoring to convince them by reasonable means. I will do my best to resist gloating or preaching to the choir (although it can garner a lot of Internet hits) because I don’t think it does any good. And I will hope.