On The Anniversary Of 9/11
Though we count only few, there are some painful wounds to which even time itself—that patient panacea of most all disease, that quiet medicine for near every person and age—offers but little relief. Insensitive to the salve of time, these are the injuries upon which the subtle, persistent hands of the clock have neither a healing effect, nor an improving influence. While we await the ascent of one sun, to the fall of that by which it’s succeeded, and the transition of the climate from the autumn to the spring, we feel, with sharpened acuity and unsparing pain, the force of their impact through every hour of life.
These, as we might call them, are the non-healing wounds of life, the marks by which an age long, though not always happily lived, is forever spotted. They are the chronic ulcers on the ankles, the ageless bruises on the skin to which time, despite the noble efforts of its minutes and constant industry of its weeks, has failed to offer a real remedy. The body, never for lack of trying, has yet to have completed the re-absorption of these assaults, by which the natural hue of life and ruddiness of vigor take their signal to return. Throughout time’s long duration, it works at this task, for which greater time still is always needed.
These wounds afflict not just the mortal, but the national body as well. Like that of the citizens by whom it’s populated, or that of the generations by whom it’s sustained, the body of the nation is susceptible to damages atop which scars often fail to settle. Absent the cicatrix for which they cry out, the wounds of the nation’s body remain open, and they shriek with discomfort at the approach of another year’s cruel touch.
This nation’s greatest, and by far still freshest wound, is that which was delivered nineteen years ago, on this very day. It was nearly two decades ago, at the youthful, radiant start of a September’s morning, that radical Islamic terrorists executed their unprecedented strike. It was a terrible punch for which this supposedly vigilant, and enviably strong nation was completely unprepared. Three planes over which the terrorists gained full control crashed into their intended targets: The World Trade Center buildings—with which the very skyline of Manhattan was for so long, synonymous—and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The one plane over which their seizure was, thankfully, incomplete, in whose cabin, the very epitome of valor both fought and flew, was brought down, heroically, into the blood-soaked turf of a Pennsylvania field.
This day, more than any other, is the national wound with which we, as Americans, continue to suffer. The passage of time, to which, as of today, nineteen years have now contributed, has done little to relieve us of this deep, insurmountable pain. No scar atop it has formed, and no closure is yet forthcoming. Still, despite the discomfort, it’s a day upon which I often reflect, to whose immediate aftermath, I frequently return. I do so in order to gauge the distance by which that moment and this are separated, during which so much has transpired and the unity of our national spirit has been lost.
For one, I direct my thoughts toward the nature of terror, on the various lineaments of its carriage, and the frightful varieties of its current use. Now, it seems, the threats by which we’re cruelly afflicted, the anxieties by which our sleep is nightly detained, are rather domestic than foreign. The enemy of whom we’ve become so recently wary, into whose obscure and dark origins, our curiosities have since begun to plumb, are to be found not across distant expanse of the seas, but within the close reach our cities; not in barren, rugged hillsides, between whose arid cracks, terror networks tend to slip and take root, but in bustling centers of finance and trade, around which our twirling economy spins; not in ancient and benighted Arabia, to whom the notion of equality between the sexes remains a radical and fatal idea, but in progressive and new America, to whose likeness the rest of the developing world still strives to affix itself.
The figures by whom our nightmares are visited, to whom our leftist politicians have agreed to prostrate themselves, aren’t the turban-clad, machete-wielding, Hadith-quoting terrorists of old. Though an undying species (killers motivated by political ideology, enflamed by religious zeal, and guaranteed the gifts of an eschatological time to come, will forever remain the nuisance of the world), this is not a group with which, at the present moment, we’re concerned. Such menacing characters, to whom the last twenty years provided so large and inviting a stage, have been replaced in this summer of our disquiet, this annus horribilis that we’ll never forget, by purely homegrown enthusiasts of the most repulsive time.
These are people, caught on the continuum between Bolsheviks and Nihilists, Communists and Anarchists, who are bent on causing destruction, toppling our confidence, inspiring fear, stifling discussion, and physically bludgeoning every opponent with whom they disagree. These are the people, Jacobins from the first to the last, who are determined to intimidate residents, crucify clerics, shatter dreams, burn edifices, stomp out businesses, shoot the police, transgress civility, and oust an incumbent president upon whom, to my great surprise, they’ve not yet ventured a fatal attempt.
They go by two names: Antifa and BLM. The former is unapologetically oriented toward terror and violence; the latter, furtively so. Both cloud their antics in the semantic ambiguity of their seemingly noble names: Anti-Fascist and Black Lives Matter—could anything be more unexceptionable? Could one be so indecent as to object to the former and its resistance to fascists, or to the latter’s demand for the confirmation of the vitality of black life?
As it turns out, both employ for the identity of their respective organizations phrases to which, in assessment of their actions as opposed to their titles, neither one honestly subscribes. The Anti-Fascists are anything but; they’ve adopted the techniques of those by whom, if only in opposition, they speciously sought to define themselves. All they lack is a charismatic Mussolini, a twenty-first-century Il Duce, around whom they might flock, and a bundle of sticks surrounding an ax, by which the symbol of their collective strength might be brandished. The Black Lives Matter advocates seem only to care about an exiguous number of carefully-selected “Black lives”, many of whom, often justifiably, were killed by the police. The plight of all Black lives, it seems, isn’t a problem about which they’re very deeply concerned, only those who succumb to the violence of the cops.
During the month of September, in the year 2001, the police were targeted for veneration. Now, nineteen years removed from the trials of that age, they’re the targets of censure, murder, and every species of abuse. Back then, though still in the comfortable innocence of my youth, I remember vividly one scene, perhaps above most others with which I came into contact. That was the ubiquity with which “NYPD” hats were to be found in every segment of society. Every politician, every athlete, every celebrity, every workaday woman and man proudly adorned their heads with this universal, reverential cap. It was a sign of national cohesion, resilience, gratitude, and pride. If not that, then they wore one emblazoned with the letters “FDNY”, or otherwise demonstrated their support for the state’s intrepid first responders in some other sartorial way.
Today, such a scene, and such a wardrobe of dress, would be unimaginable. It would be thought an unenlightened, obsolete, and deliberately provocative display, as if it were an instance of backsliding into an un-progressive and un-woke past. It would be asking for trouble. Indeed, anyone caught wearing such a hat, in a city or town in which such expressions of one’s fidelity to law enforcement was considered passé, might expose him to aspersions, bullying, or—as has become increasingly common—open and gratuitous violence. Instead of thanking these brave police officers, who ran into burning buildings smoldering with jet fuel and flesh, we’ve deemed it wise to defund them. Instead of exalting them, we’ve emasculated them.
While not quite the entire lifespan of a nation, nineteen years is indeed a long time. So much that’s transpired during the course of those years has left me, robust and an optimist, discouraged and chronically ailed. Time, as we know, hasn’t the ability to alleviate all pains. If it did, we’d numb ourselves with idleness and patience. And though the wound of 9/11 will never fully heal, we’re adding to it a masochistic barrage of self-violence. These cuts, while not equally deep, are more numerous and frightful.
I’m not so sure, nineteen years hence, they’ll form the ability to scar.