On September 11, I was still in middle school. Around the middle of an otherwise-unremarkable school day, we began to hear unsettling murmurs of a plane hitting a skyscraper somewhere. Near the end of the day, our English teacher told us that it was the World Trade Center, and two planes had been deliberately rammed into it, causing the towers to collapse and kill God knows how many people.
It was a sickening wake-up call. Such monstrosities simply didn’t happen on American soil outside of the movies. I had been starting to develop a mild interest in politics prior to 9/11 (due in large part to abortion), but the sudden death of 3,000 civilians for nothing more than getting on a plane or showing up to work in the morning drove home the urgency of political involvement. It wasn’t just far-away bickering; what our country did or didn’t do could have serious real-world implications. I was no soldier, but if I could use the skills I did have to prevent this from happening to anyone else again, I was in.
Nine years later, the political landscape isn’t as neatly divided between right and wrong, problem and solution as it once seemed – as admirably steadfast as he was in the beginning, George W. Bush’s execution of the Iraq War and his failure to root out political correctness in the military may have disastrous long-term ramifications for the war, and the libertarian trends in the Tea Party movement are threatening to take the Right’s eye off the ball entirely. Even so, the broad strokes are still there:
Either we believe in fighting those who wish us harm, or we don’t.
Either we believe in denying them the means to cause mass destruction, or we don’t.
Either we believe in honestly examining their motives – including religious – or we don’t.
Either we understand that endlessly talking to the irrational is itself irrational, or we don’t.
Either we understand that those who want us dead will accept no concession other than our death, or we don’t.
Either we see 9/11 for what it was – pure, unadulterated evil – and understand the ramifications for our future, or we don’t.
We don’t need new investigations into what “really” happened. We don’t need hand-wringing about whether or not we deserved it in some way, or whether or not we’re becoming the bad guys in response. We don’t need to keep indulging those who insist on lying about us and about our enemies. We simply need to ask ourselves whether or not we’re prepared to pay any price or bear any burden to prevent it from happening again.