On Saturday, the 9th anniversary of 9/11 I asked whether Americans would ever be able to let the shared national experience of 9/11 go.
I don't think we're ready yet, and I'm not sure we'll ever be ready. To give some historical perspective, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened December, 2 1941 and it is an event mourned and commemorated to this day, 59 years later. Maybe in 50 years the memory of September 11, 2001 will begin to fade and life will return to normal, but even the Pearl Harbor attacks were not as traumatic to our national character as 9/11.
For one thing, 9/11 happened live before our eyes. Millions of Americans were tuned into networks like CNN and NBC when the reports of a third plane crashing in Washington, DC hit the airwaves. Many more watched as the towers fell into torrents of dust and debris. Pearl Harbor was something Americans heard about on the radio after the event happened. On 9/11 Americans watched thousands of their countrymen die in an instant. We suffer from a kind of national post-traumatic stress disorder, and our responses to the attack bear that out.
After 9/11 the United States embarked on two ill-concieved military operations in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. The rights of habeus corpus and due process were suspended for Americans and foreigners alike. The largest expansion of federal power in decades occurred at the hands of a government that had just two years earlier run on conservative credentials. Prisoners of war, deemed 'enemy combatants' had their rights under the Geneva Conventions stripped and were subjected to imprisonment without term, renditioning to countries that would not protect them and torture of every degree in prisons.
A prison camp was established at the military base on Guantanamo Bay, a kind of 'ultra-max' facility for suspected terrorists.
Airplanes became harder to board. Air travel now requires a time consuming boarding process that strips airplanes of some of their efficiency and most of their convenience.
Our phones are being tapped without a judge's permission. Our homes can be searched without a warrant, we can be stopped and interrogated.
Our police and security personnel are racially profiling our fellow Americans. There are those among us that are burning Qurans and mosques.
At least we've gotten to the point where people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin can exploit 9/11's anniversary to boost their popularity.
I guess that is some progress.