Why one should avoid the September 11th commemorations
that our culture is thoroughly dominated by left-liberalism, everything about the event will inevitably twisted into a false, sick, left-liberal shape.
Edward Rothstein writes in the New York Times:
… like theologians after the catastrophic 18th-century Lisbon earthquake, who saw the wages of sin in the disaster, many intellectuals didn’t wait long to assert that this blowback was payback. This is why this attack is often mischaracterized as tragedy, a drama that unfolds out of the flaws or failings of its victim.
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That impulse of self-blame still runs through many cultural commemorations. Indeed, because little during the past decade was an unmitigated triumph, the impulse has even grown stronger. A poll from the Pew Charitable Trust this week shows that while in September 2001, 33 percent of those asked thought United States wrongdoing might have motivated the attacks, now 43 percent hold that belief. Many of the Sept. 11 books now being published are sentimental recollections of loved ones; another hefty segment is about criticism of American policy before and after Sept. 11.
This means that memorialization, rather than simply recalling the dead, or strengthening the resolve to pursue an enemy, becomes an opportunity to push these arguments further. Disaster becomes ambiguously commemorated. Any victory is also ambiguously celebrated because it is seen as scarred by sin (though surely no victory is ever unmarred). The delays in the reconstruction at ground zero are as much a result of these tensions as anything else.
You can see the same conflicts in the White House “talking points” for Sept. 11 commemorations that The New York Times reported on this week. The memos don’t suggest any cheering for successes of the last decade; there is even a hesitation to attract much attention, as if the White House were feeling ambivalent about the whole business, haunted perhaps by guilt. The memos also minimize any suggestion that military force had something to do with Al Qaeda’s suffering severe setbacks.
Moreover, they stress that commemorations here and abroad should “emphasize the positive.” The implication is made that at one time “fear” was the response to Sept. 11; now “resilience” is. And resilience implies a kind of firm passivity. This is strange, because anyone who has spent time undressing in snaking airport lines before undergoing the kinds of screenings once associated with convicted felons knows full well that this has little to do with resilience.
The memos almost treat Sept. 11 as if it weren’t Sept. 11. It is certainly not about Islamist extremism or the jihadist proclamations by its aspirants. It isn’t even really about us. We are told: “We honor all victims of terrorism, in every nation of the world. We honor and celebrate the resilience of individuals, families and communities on every continent, whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” (Is it just an accident of alliteration that crucial cities torn by terror have been omitted, because that would have required acknowledging that Jerusalem or Tel Aviv faces something similar?)
Indeed, so anxious is the White House to filter out any historical aspects of Sept. 11 that it proclaims this anniversary “the third official National Day of Service and Remembrance.” It should be used to encourage “service projects” and a “spirit of unity.” Through such demonstrations, the memos affirm, our communities can withstand “whatever dangers may come—be they terrorist attacks or natural disasters.”
If that is the sense the national leadership finds in that day, why should we expect much more from cultural commemorations than miscellany, euphemism, self-effacement and self-blame?
James R. writes:
Occasionally even the modern New York Times publishes a worthy piece. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this Sept. 11th, but I know I won’t be indulging in maudlin and treacly commemorations of “the tragedy that occurred which impacted many lives,” and remonstrations from our betters that we “should not allow diversity to become a casualty of the tragedy which occurred on Sept. 11”
Perhaps I’ll read Pericles’ Funeral Oration, and dream of what it might be like to live in a real polity that believes in itself.
Edward Rothstein is not a typical voice at the Times. He has a somewhat conservative angle on the culture.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 03, 2011 04:43 PM | Send