Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Simple Reminder on This Day: We Are Americans

On this ninth anniversary of the murderous attacks on our country, I find it somewhat queer that the public discourse is all about mosques and Qurans. Does this not suggest anything? Why, on September 11 of all days, should the media stage be so obsessed with just these topics, of all possible topics?

Could it be that what passes for the media's heartstrings in this day and age are actually being manipulated? Are those who propose to build a mosque near Ground Zero, as well as those who propose to burn Qurans in public, simply pushing the media's buttons? And is not the media building up the stories in a perfectly predictable way?

This is America, not an outpost of Riyadh or Cairo. There is far more worthy news out there than anything that may happen today in Gainesville, Florida. The sense of the country which I get -- if not all the media types get it -- is best expressed in this monologue delivered four years ago on 9/11 by Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson, who though a naturalized American retains his wonderful Scottish brogue, which lends a poignancy to his words (there is a transcript of them, and more about his show, at this link).

In short: America is still here. And we are not going anywhere. Period. America is greater than any single religion, or any single political party, or any single philosophy, or any point of view. To focus on just one, on this day of all days, is to be untrue to what is true. It is to allow those who want to seize the center stage, to their narrow benefit, to succeed in their petty goal. (And in that sense, I suppose one could say, it is also very American to let the petty ones have their day, to strut their stuff before it is forever forgotten.)

Let us keep our eyes focused, however, on the main objective: to celebrate what makes this country great. The memory of those who died on September 11, 2011 has not faded away; the heroism of the police and firefighters, of those on Flight 93, still inspires us, and strengthens our resolve that they not have died in vain. Their deaths were fully American, because the only reason they were marked for death on that fateful day was that they were Americans.

Think about that for a minute: what does it mean to be American, such that others in the world want to kill you for it? It is false to say that America deserved it, because of its hateful foreign policies and slaughter of innocent civilians (read about what motivated Al Qaeda, if you wish, in this book). No, Americans were murdered on 9/11 because of what they stood for, because of what the Twin Towers stood for: where Jews worked side-by-side with Muslims, where there was even a Muslim prayer room, for heavens' sake. America is a country whose people are still free, and their freedom provides an example to those who are not as free, as well as to those who would deny others their right to be free.

All the tumult and shouting about the coming elections, about the Tea Party, about returning to fundamental values versus staying the collective course -- that is what makes America American, and is the real character of our country. Our character is not what we are, or what we do, under any given President or Congress. Our character is that we can have different Presidents, and different Congresses, and that we change a good part of them every two years. That is the essence of America, what makes her enviable, and what makes her great.

Look into the eyes of those who are trying to occupy the center stage on this day of all days, listen to their words, and watch what they are doing: they are not being open to contrary views, they are not willing that their viewpoint might be defeated democratically, that it might lose out in the free competition of ideas. In short, they do not accept what it is to be American.

A pox on both their houses, I say. Let us look past their narrowly crafted scenarios, designed only for media appeal, but not for any real American dialogue. Leave them to babble on to themselves for the time being -- don't buy any newspapers with their manufactured headlines, and turn off any radio or TV shows which are prating on about what is going on in Gainesville or at Ground Zero. Turn to what is truly important. On this anniversary of America's tragic witness to her values, let us most of all celebrate those values, and show the rest of the world that America is still here, and that as much as others might want to make it into this or that in their image, it is not going anywhere. It remains America -- because we are Americans.


  1. Great post. Yes we are Americans and that is why we who live 1500 miles from NYC mourned and grieved when our fellow citizens were murdered on 9/11/01.
    May we never forget.

  2. For me the stories about the NY Muslim Center and the potential Gainesville Quran burning were about whether we have lost our 1st Amendment rights due to threats of Muslim violence.

    The question in my mind from the Gainesville story: Have we adopted a de facto blasphemy law protecting Islam only?

    And on Wednesday I watched the CNN interview with Imam Rauf where he seemed to be threatening that if he had to move his plans to another location, Muslim extremists will explode in a manner even worse than they did following the Danish cartoon crisis. He seemed to be trying to make protesting against that planned Islamic Center an "issue of national security".

    So, maybe it is appropriate on 9/11of all days, to be asking whether radical Islam is winning, slowly encroaching on our freedoms and implementing a privileged position for Islam in our country.