“Never forget.” That was one of the most pervasive slogans to rise in response to the nightmare we all witnessed fifteen years ago today. It meant waking up to the evil in our world that is interested in us regardless of whether we’re interested in seeing it.
At the time, it seemed like an easy promise to make, after seeing the video of people so desperate to escape the flames that they jump out the windows of a skyscraper, knowing they were going to die as they plummeted hundreds of feet but deciding it was better than burning or suffocating to death, the people on the other side of the world cheering the hell murderers acting in their name put other human beings through.
But we did forget.
Many — and not just on “the other side,” whatever your side is — still retreat into the comforting fictions, petty priorities, and utter negligence that left us vulnerable in the first place.
The Left has not taken responsibility for how their policies gave Osama bin Laden the opportunity to strike, continually downplays the threat of a global movement that wants America dead, has so stigmatized any discussion of why they want us dead that coworkers of jihadists choose not to report warning signs for fear of being labeled “Islamophobic,” spent the first DECADE after 9/11 slandering the president who put a stop to a state sponsor of international jihad, and this year has put forward — as their choice for the next commander-in-chief of a post-9/11 America — someone whose negligence has already gotten more Americans killed. By God, we haven’t even fixed the visa overstay blind spot that let 5 of the hijackers stay in the country on 9/11.
Which is not to say that the Right is blameless. We have not offered the American people a unified, cohesive vision of how to navigate these troubled waters. When the death toll in Iraq understandably left the public war-weary, many Republicans pandered to shortsighted desire to just get out of wherever is violent rather than do the statesman’s job of rallying people to understand that our sacrifices were to prevent far larger losses of life. By and large, the GOP was not outraged enough (or outraged at all) by the preceding paragraph’s offenses to hold Democrats accountable for them. Many conservatives’ incessant need to indulge libertarianism as some legitimate heir to the Founding lends credence to the lie of isolationism. And — strikingly lackluster for the challenges of the office though our own presidential nominee is — a vocal contingent of “conservatives” has prioritized their hatred of him over all other considerations to the point that they would rather have in office the wife of the president who let the first 9/11 happen.
We forgot. When and whether we’ll start remembering is anyone’s guess.