Remembrance of things past

It’s difficult to look back on another anniversary of the American tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, without thinking about how our lives in America have changed. It’s also difficult not to think about ways our lives have not changed. So many of the promises made in the wake of the terrorist bombings have not been kept. In fact, as we listen to Osama bin Laden (or some facsimile) laugh into his dyed beard, it’s easy to think that those American lives, those victims of our intelligence agencies’ ineptitude, have become merely footnotes in books burning on political pyres.

Let’s remember, for a moment, the 2,750 people who lost their lives in the attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and Washington, D.C.'s Pentagon, and those souls who passed on Flight 93. Let’s remember, too, their families.

Let’s remember the 4,177 American soldiers who, as of today, Sept. 11, have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s remember their families, as well. While it is clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, we know that many of those soldiers placed themselves in harm’s way because politicians have immorally chosen to connect that country with the attack on ours.

While we know that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida have taken credit for the murders of those people on that horrendous day, we also know that very few of those criminals who planned the attacks have been brought to justice. We don’t know that bin Laden is alive; we only know that it suits our enemies’ purposes to promote him as such.

But let’s look closer to home. In the days following the attacks, for a moment, our country was brought together. While much has been made of America’s squandering of world sympathy, it’s a greater tragedy the way our own society has been torn asunder with battling political factions looking to turn every aspect of the attacks into selfish political hay. What has happened in Congress in the last six years, with the two major parties unable stop fighting long enough to find the common ground American citizens deserve, has been unforgivable—driving an already frustrated electorate further into ennui and disaffection.

And then there was the promise of Homeland Security. Danger points were identified in those scary days after 9/11. The ports and the borders were identified as soft-spots in our armor. Has the security been improved at those places? Not if you believe our own government’s reports. No, they keep talking about how uneducated, illiterate, non-English speakers keep pouring over the border. Remember how things like gasoline tankers on our highways were identified as easily armed missiles more destructive than airliners? While technology was tested in the months immediately following the tragedy, tankers have not been retrofitted with a device that would allow the police to stop them in their tracks before a catastrophe happens. Why not? It’s about money.

It would be nice to write an editorial that would whip up a patriotic fervor and claim that those who’ve died in our wars on terror have not died in vain, but we’ve learned too many lessons in the six years since Sept. 11, 2001. We learned it was America’s inability to face our own weaknesses that allowed a bunch of cave-dwellers to strike at our heart. And it’s America’s inability to deal with its own weakness that will allow the next inevitable attack on our soil to succeed.