9/11 at 15: We’ve made it worse

September 11, 2016

national_park_service_9-11_statue_of_liberty_and_wtc_fireOn the morning of September 11, 2001, pure, unadulterated evil appeared on the door step of the United States of America.  It did not knock; it did not ring the doorbell.  It blasted its way into our history with a depravity of soul unfathomable to the civilized world.

Not since the Imperial Navy of the Empire of Japan turned a peaceful Pearl Harbor Sunday into a cauldron of death on December 7, 1941 had the nation witnessed such callousness for human life.

And just as members of the Pearl Harbor generation remember exactly where they were that “date which will live in infamy”, so too do those of us today have seared into our own minds the moment we first heard of our horror.  Where we were, what we were doing, and sadly, that punch in the gut, that oh my God this cannot be happening feeling of despair and disbelief.

Yet it did happen.  And while the acute pain has subsided, the chronic effects of that day will be with us for decades to come.

The list of political and military mistakes is well known.  From the Clinton administration treating Al Qaeda as a criminal matter instead of the national threat that it was, to the Bush administration allowing Osama bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora and then letting initial Iraq invasion victory disappear into years of insurgent warfare, to the Obama administration telegraphing our troop levels and withdrawal dates in Afghanistan, pulling out of Iraq without plans to protect the hard won stability, and not destroying ISIS from the air while convoying in open desert, there is more than enough blame to go around.

On the domestic side, we have the Department of Homeland Security behemoth that was born out of the fear in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.  If there is one constant with the United States Congress, it is that in time of crisis, the knees of politicians of all stripes begin to jerk uncontrollably as they rush to affix their name to new bills that “fix” the problems their previous incompetence created.

The result is a federal government that has become the antithesis of our founding framework.

Individual liberty and personal privacy is no longer a natural right enshrined in the Constitution but rather a novelty that our overseers in D.C. allow us to have from time to time as they see fit.  We throw billions of dollars at an entrenched and bloated Transportation Safety Administration that’s great at patting down the handicapped and humiliating Grandma but as test after test reveals, not so good at doing what it was formed to do.

In just 3 years, 8 months and 27 days, the Pearl Harbor generation took the United States from an unprepared, isolated, ill-equipped wannabe to emerging the other side as the world’s first nuclear power.  In the time since that first plane crashed into the North Tower, we could have fought four, yes four, World War II’s.

The sad fact is that on this 15th anniversary of the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, the only concrete thing we’ve accomplished is to add an additional $14 Trillion of debt onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.

The American citizen has less freedom, the American military has more threats, and the nation itself is being ripped apart at the seams by political forces hell bent on turning us as far away from our founding principles as possible.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I most certainly know that if something doesn’t change and change quickly, the America that I was born into, the America that I know and love, the America that, despite her flaws, has still done more good for this world than any nation in the history of mankind will be an America in name only.

Laying wreaths on a memorial and saying a few words “in remembrance” doesn’t cut it.  If the thousands no longer with us are to have not died in vain, it is up to us, the living, to reverse the self-destructive course of the past fifteen years and restore ourselves to the days before we compounded tragedy with tragedy.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the September 11, 2016 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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