It was a precious morning of clarity under crystalline blue skies. In New York and elsewhere it was one of those crisp days that is the kind of glorious gift by which September rewards us for letting go of summer, though we know that autumn, and even winter are in the offing. Americans went off to school, arrived at work and planned their day.
The attacks smudged the skies in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, but for most all Americans, clarity intensified as the day unfolded. Through concurrent waves of terror, shock, horror, fear, sorrow, rage and determination, we understood that we had been drafted into a war we had had no desire to wage. Those were days of black and white when we clearly understood that there were agents of evil in the world who wanted to kill us and destroy our way of life.
One who understood this with simplistic clear light and led the nation with little controversy in the days that followed was George W. Bush. Though his standing fell in the years that followed, in the aftermath of September 11 he was a beacon. Since the handoff of power to President Obama in 2009, Bush has retired to privacy, only occasionally donning the suit of public life.
Yesterday he was in Shanksville Pennsylvania to help dedicate the Flight 93 Memorial. Speaking of those that gave their lives so that other Americans might live, Bush reminded us that, “They did nothing to provoke or deserve the deliberate act of murder that Al Queda carried out. One of the lessons of 9-11 is that evil is real and so is courage. “
He further honored them with Lincoln’s timeless prose from the dedication of the Gettysburg battlefield reminding those assembled that
“in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”
We saw Bush again this morning at Ground Zero, once again remembering the fallen with Lincoln’s words. In 1864, Lincoln learned that Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Massachusetts had sent five sons to serve the nation, and all had been killed in action. Lincoln waited until after the election and then wrote Mrs. Bixby in his own hand.
“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Rudy Giuliani was also at the podium today, with words from an even more celestial authority.
“The perspective that we need and have needed over the last 10 years and the years that remain are best expressed by the words of God as inscribed in the book of Ecclesiastes’
‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to win, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.”
God bless every soul that we lost, God bless the family members that have to endure that loss, God guide us to our reunion in heaven, God Bless the United States of America.”
Despite the national and even international sense of loss and community most feel today, there are always those who remain blinded to the light, so blind they can not see. Over at the New York Times, Paul Krugman writes in his blog The Conscience of a Liberal of “The Years of Shame“:
Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?
Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.
I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.
The obvious reason is cowardice. If that is the “Conscience of a Liberal”, then liberals have no conscience, but we don’t believe that.
Why do we listen to this man, why does he have a forum? He has a Nobel Prize, but the currency of that award has been so devalued that even Yassar Arafat has one, among others of dubious merit. If the New York Times still mattered, they would ban him, banish him and cast him out.
In contrast to Krugman’s tone deaf remarks was the timeless beauty of the Sounds Of Silence performed by a quintessential New Yorker and our generational poet Laureate, Paul Simon.
Today there is no poison in the remembrance and there is no occasion for shame, except for the actions of a handful of intellectual degenerates like Krugman.
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