Thursday, May 15, 2014

Obama, 9/11, and Foolishness

Obama, 9/11, and Foolishness
P. Schultz
May 15, 2014

            A museum dedicated to the attack on 9/11 was opened and, among others, President Obama spoke. This is part of what he had to say.

“President Obama on Thursday dedicated the long-awaited museum commemorating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with a mournful elegy to the victims, a stirring tribute to the heroes and a firm resolve to never let terrorists shatter the spirit of America.” [NY Times, May 15, 2014]

            Here is what confuses me: How could terrorists ever “shatter the spirit of America?” I mean, the shattering of “our” spirit is not something that can be accomplished by any attack, no matter how devastating – and certainly the attack on 9/11 was hardly a terribly devastating one except psychologically. But “the spirit” of a nation is not “shattered” by attacks, as you would think we would understand by now, that is, post WWII and post Vietnam, where the US thought that it could, via massive bombings, “shatter” the spirit or undermine the resolve of our enemies.

            So why this foolishness from the president? After all, he is not a fool. Well, it is because he has to make something out of 9/11 that it wasn’t. Or, perhaps, I should say that he has to continue to make something out of 9/11 it wasn’t. After all, 9/11 wasn’t even an attack that was part of a broader war on the U.S. as evidenced by the fact that we have not been attacked since and any apparent attacks were rather more like eccentricities than parts of a broader war being controlled by a few enemy leaders. But this doesn’t sit well as we in the U.S. obsess over that attack. It seems we have to think that, for example, nothing was the same after the 9/11 attacks and this, even though, as Putin has reminded us, things are pretty much the same as they have always been.

            Obama’s rhetoric reminds me of the rhetoric used when the Boston Marathon was run this year and it was said that Boston was being quite “defiant” in holding the marathon. But who were the Bostonians defying? One of the bombers was dead, the other was in custody and the mother was somewhere in central Europe still claiming, I imagine, that her sons had been scapegoated by the U.S. government. Apparently, there was no one Bostonians were defying but they had to think there were others threatening to bomb the marathon again or their feelings would seem more narcissistic than would otherwise be the case.

            The president also said:

“No act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country,” Mr. Obama told a crowd that included family members of those slain and other invited guests in the cavernous underground hall of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. “Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today,” he added, “nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans.”

True enough, Mr. President, but its truthfulness is matched by its triteness. No,
“nothing can break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans.” But some might say: Too bad because some change in who we are as Americans might actually improve us.  Just sayin’.

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