Saturday, January 28, 2006

9/11, get over it

Mt. Holyoke College professor of history Joseph J. Ellis pens a NY Times op-ed today on the history of 9/11. Apparently, he sess little big history there. His tentative conclusion:

What Patrick Henry once called "the lamp of experience" needs to be brought into the shadowy space in which we have all been living since Sept. 11. My tentative conclusion is that the light it sheds exposes the ghosts and goblins of our traumatized imaginations. It is completely understandable that those who lost loved ones on that date will carry emotional scars for the remainder of their lives. But it defies reason and experience to make Sept. 11 the defining influence on our foreign and domestic policy. History suggests that we have faced greater challenges and triumphed, and that overreaction is a greater danger than complacency.

Tentative conclusion, does that qualify as oxymoronic?

Let's see if I'm interpreting this correctly. If you survive a victim of 9/11, you have every reason to feel the pain and carry it with you. The rest of us rubes don't have anything to be all that worked up about. The only foreign invasion in the history of the US to kill American civilians in four-digit figures is nothing for the average American to get steamed and lathered over. No need to get enraged that your neighbors were destroyed by thugs flying jet airline bombs filled with innocent human beings. It's not like they targeted your relatives or close friends.

I'm glad Ellis has the good sense to see greater challenges out there. Maybe some of those other conflicts Ellis deems history-worthy only grew into massive ones because we had too much Ellis-type thinking in the past.

Ellis also compares the Patriot Act to the Alien and Sedition Acts and McCarthyism, among other blotches on the landscape of American History. Read it.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Brent said...

Glenn, I believe I've expressed this sentiment to you before. This is not something that will tar our nation forever. It will be just another memorial in 50 years, like Pearl Harbor. I know it was a traumatic expereince for those in and around it. I had a buddy who lived in NYC and tried to make his way to ground zero to help. As he got within blocks, ash was knee-deep in the street. There were people wandering in a daze, not knowing what to do or what had happened. And then he stumbled upon a twentysomething girl who was frozen staring at the ground in the middle of the street. She was looking at an arm lying there in the street. It was a sight I'm sure he'll never forget.

However, here is my point. Americans don't dwell on tragedy. There has always been a hopeful light that shines toward tomorrow. I think the people where not directly affected (ie lost a loved on, were in the building or came upon the gruesome aftermath) are poseurs. Just flag-waiving poseurs. It has nothing to do with their feelings for their country or bitterness after 9-11. It's just a channel for faux patriotism. I know that sounds harsh, but I feel it's the truth.

1/28/2006  
Blogger Glenn said...

Brent, I agree with you that 9/11 will not tar the US forever. I'm not at all into the memorial services that have greeted us the last five Sept. 11ths. A crater in Manhattan is not what I want to remember about that day.

I do want to remember that our country stood up and fought back against the most egregious violation of sovereign American soil by a foreign enemy in our history.

If that doesn't end up being a big deal historically. So be it. However, I completely disagree with Ellis. People like him were making the same type of assumptions concerning Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

1/29/2006  
Anonymous Brent said...

I just hope that history doesn't remember our stand against those who perpetrated the attacks as the most destructive case of misplaced blame in the world. There is no end in sight to this, and, while it's nice to have Sadam out of power, what did the world really gain by this war? So far, my estimation is very little. We went in under the assumption that Sadam had WMDs and was a threat to the rest of the world. Come to find out, he was a threat only to his own people. So, if that's the criteria by which we invade, we should have gone into the Sudan first, probably followed by North Korea.

I think we will have to wait for a few years to see how this all shakes out as to whether we're doing good or invading for a personal vendetta.

I think it will be glossed over in our history books because the ugly reasons behind WWII, Korea and Vietman seem to be glossed over.

1/29/2006  

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