I don’t want to belabor any of the obvious points about this anniversary. We all know what today is. We were all there in our own way to witness the horror, wherever we were that morning. Today is different only because we have the perspective that time alone can bring.
What irks me about today is that we’ve had a clear failing in leadership. It would be easy to pick on the president or some other member of the administration or in the Congress. No, that’s the wrong answer. We’ve had a failure in leadership among every politician who has used that day to sell us fear rather than answers. We’ve had a failure in leadership by every government official charged with keeping us safe who has acquiesced to believing that the ongoing threat is so existential that the ends justify any and all means. Worst of all, we’ve had a failure in leadership among every voter who has accepted the fear and the acquiescence to obtain some sense of safety, no matter how irrational or illusory.
Despite the rhetoric to the contrary immediately following the events of that day, I should’ve expected the nature of the partisan political desire to provide the only solution and to claim credit before achieving success. That’s the nature of the job, although it doesn’t have to be. And government officials are charged to follow orders, despite the options to defy unconstitutional orders built into the system through years of need. Again, this is not surprising. The failure to lead in any of these positions is foreseeable. It’s this failure in ourselves to reject elected representatives who care more about their careers than our lives that I think about most today.
This failure is not in politicians of any specific party. The Republican quest for a permanent majority has blinded them to their supposed core principles of liberty and limited government. They want us secure from attack, but not secure in our minds. They wish to walk the balance of these two contradictions by using fear as a campaign tactic to assure us that pulling the (R) lever every November is the only way to prevent that day from happening again. This is crass and shameful, not deserving of even a temporary majority.
The Democratic quest to oppose an administration they’ve hated since 2000 blinds them to the clear need for opposition to provide a vision of success when the majority has strayed. They forget that good people can possess bad ideas. Someone must remind them that the failure of this president is not desirable. Too many Democrats believe that opposition should rejoice in the majority’s failure. They have also settled for believing that America can act as a turtle and retreat to the apparent safety of our shell. They are wrong. They do not deserve to replace the Republicans.
But we accept this. We believe it’s more important to know who to blame for government failures leading to that day than to know how we can fix those problems before they fail us again. We hate President Clinton or we hate President Bush. We believe we are in a religious war or we believe that we are fighting a few fringe lunatics who justifiably hate us for our alleged arrogance. Those coarse generalizations are insidious. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. We know this even when our representatives pretend that we don’t. But we do nothing about it. The venom has carried on for nearly five years. This is dangerous.
When the inevitable push for November begins, with its parade of symbols from that day, we must say that we’ve had enough. We must say that we do not believe that day’s lesson should be permanent fear and hatred. We are strong for the principles we stand on. They have led us to our power and standing in the world. We must show that our ideals are true. Revenge against our enemies, across oceans or across the street, does not serve us. Justice and peace are all that matter.
We must demand that our representatives lead. If they refuse to be accountable, we must vote them out and find new representatives. We must expect solutions instead of fear and blame. We are all on the same side. Disagreement does not equate to a desire or willingness to lose. We showed that we could be united following that day. We must return to that. That is the way to respect America and our continued strength. By leading we find a safer future.
That is how I want to honor those who died that morning.