I’m pretty certain all my blog readers are old enough to recall where they were and what they saw happening (or heard, in my case) sixteen years ago today in the United States.
I started musing about other shock events of that nature, and what happened in the following years. What was going on sixteen years after December 7, 1941? That would be December 1957. Dwight D. Eisenhower, former general of the US Army, was president. The United States had fought a second war in Asia, or technically a “conflict,” and was glowering across the borders of a divided Germany and the Iron Curtain at the USSR. Stalin had died [*cheers*], Khrushchev had shaken the Communist Parties with his “Secret Speech” denouncing Stalin, but Hungary was smouldering from the Soviet’s crushing an attempt at easing the strictures of Stalinism. Most eyes had been on the Suez Canal at the time as people wondered if this would start the next world war.
Some former members of the NSDAP’s inner circle were hiding in South America or other places. Most were dead, by judicial execution or (increasingly) brought to justice by the new nation of Israel. Of Nazism in Germany very, very few traces remained, and those were mostly physical structures that served as a warning. Those and the lingering mounds of rubble.
I realize it’s a bit facile to compare the events and aftermath of WWII with September 11, 2001. WWII was fought as a traditional war, one that looked familiar in many ways when compared to WWI, especially as fought in Europe. There were differences, especially in the treatment of civilians, but the planes, tanks, infantry, artillery, army vs. army? Similar. The end-point was concrete as far as the US was concerned: defeat Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, eliminate the ideologies that had led to the war, and make certain there wasn’t a WWI part Three to come after WWI part Two.
September 11th left things far messier, and the waters have not exactly cleared, although the credit for that goes in part to those who refuse to take seriously ideologies and faith. I fear, barbarian that I am, when someone says “I’m going to kill you and tear down your places of worship and make you follow my culture,” I take them seriously. It’s been pretty-well proven by example after example that poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, or unhappiness with Middle Eastern governments were not the “root causes” of Al Quaeda, Al Shabab, Ansar al Islam, Jamaat Ismalia, Boko Haram, and other less well-known groups’ formations.
Sixteen years have passed since that lovely, crisp early fall morning. What have we learned? We’ve learned that true heroes are often not who we expect. We’ve learned that there are people who really and truly want to destroy Western Civilization and all other philosophies that differ from their understanding of Islam. Some of us have learned far, far more than we ever wanted to about subjects and behaviors we’d just as soon never have heard of. Some days I wonder if the US government and certain media and political personalities have learned anything at all.
But that leads to a rant, and sends me in directions I don’t need to go. I know what my inner monster is capable of doing and I try not to feed it.
Instead, let us remember those who rose to answer a call that should never have been sounded, who stepped into the breach, the Rick Rescorlas, Todd Beamers, and others who are unknown. And let us not forget that some men and women choose evil, act on that choice, and in so doing make themselves enemies of Western Civilization and all that many of us hold dear.