Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is a scattered shadow of what it once was. A fragile but viable democracy hangs on in Iraq. There have been no successful mass-casualty attacks on soft targets in the US in ten years. Something is finally rising from the hole at Ground Zero. Afghanistan...well, it is just not what it used to be for aspiring Jihadists.
Despite the best efforts of Liberal Democrats, "Anti-War" Progressives, and their strange bedfellows on the Paleoconservative and Libertarian Right, things are unambiguously better now, Global Counterinsurgency-wise than they were ten years and one day ago, in a host of important ways.
But I still watch footage of that chilly Tuesday morning, a decade ago, and feel as though a dangerous fire is still smoldering under the wreckage, somewhere.
The other night, Nickelodeon was running a marathon of "Friends" episodes. After I got over the initial shock and dismay that the episode I watched (which I remember watching when it first aired) had been made 17 years ago (!!), I found myself, as I so often do, scanning the background of the establishing shots, and seeing those Towers on the skyline. I suppose there is something unhealthy about this. Just the sight of those marvelously stark rectangles, rising from a thicket of lesser buildings, is oddly restorative for me. It enables me, for just that moment, to position myself in a headspace in which vicious Jihadist murderers had not rammed a jagged dagger through the tender skin of my innocence and idealism.
But they did. Those Towers are gone. Forever. And thousands of lives have passed from infinite possibility to mere remembrance. And yet, as Mr Hengist ably laid out in today's post, there remains a growing cadre of dangerous fools who urge us to "just get over it, already."
No, dangerous fools. I will not. Not now. Not ever.
Because the next feeling I have when I look at the Towers in film and video, right after the warm and comfy one of a world in which my main concern was adjusting to marriage, and getting my Psychology license, and finding the best possible cappuccino, is rage. Smoldering, caustic rage. That the kind of atavistic hatred which moved the muscles of those 19 hyperempowered psychopaths was allowed to fester and to find a means of expression, such that it pierced so many lives, enrages me. That the full import of that abominable act still eludes so many, and that they can still --with all seriousness-- attribute it to something which is the "fault" of the open, pluralistic society whose very openness provided the means for that horrific spasm of bloodletting...enrages me.
As I said before, I loved those Towers. I loved the fact of them. I loved the aesthetic of them. I loved the meaning of them. I loved the commerce, and the clarity, and the sheer exuberant simplicity of them (even if these things were mostly hidden from the transnational progressive consciousness which lived in that much younger version of me at the time). My rage is the the fire which was ignited in me at the time, and it has not gone out. I hope it never does. That fire is the engine which keeps fresh in my mind the degree to which I cherish the very things which those cancerous zealots sought to extinguish, the very things which so many dangerous fools are still trying to aid them in extinguishing. The freedom to think and act and trade and (refrain from) worship(ping) as I choose, to view women and homosexuals and fellow agnostics and atheists and people of faith as equals, to differ with them in a spirited and open dialogue, to tilt a pint with them as I do so. To love them, even as I work with all my might to move this Nation in a direction which is altogether orthogonal to the vector along which they would steer it.
For the guidance system of those planes is still active. It is still aiming for the symbols and foundations of a civilization which it has never matched, and which it can only muster the wherewithal to destroy.
And I will be damned if I will let it.
(Edited to add link in last paragraph [evidence that Paul Krugman needs to find a nice, quiet place with a lot of mirrors, far away from decent people], and address an oversimplification)
ADDENDUM: Re-reading the above, it occurred to me that it might seem strange to see a psychologist speaking positively of rage. Fair point. To clarify, what I feel is the kind of rage that smolders, deep down, but is not altogether squandered in mere stewing. It is jacked into the power systems, its energy yoked to the motivational systems which feed such things as blogging, voting, campaigning, and maintaining situational awareness (both of the 'scanning a crowd for suspicious activity' sort and the 'keeping abreast of global events' sort).
So, I suppose there are really two fires smoldering here: the one which feeds the virulent fantasies and hatreds of the individuals and organizations which would like nothing more than to perpetrate an encore to the events of 9/11/01...and the one in me, and in others, to extinguish the first. They are both dangerous...but the latter is a hazard to those who, unlike the innocents on that horrid day, most assuredly have it coming.