Monday, September 11, 2006

What have I learned?

I have two very distinct memories of 9/11. The first was logging on to the internet that morning to begin work and seeing a red-letter headline on AOL, "World Trade Center Tower collapses." Astonishing and disorienting news.

The second was turning on the TV and seeing a replay of the jet hitting the second tower and Katie Couric saying "I can only imagine the horror of the people on that plane."

Those are the big two that stick with me.

Over the next few weeks public figures seemed like they couldn't open their mouths without using the phrase "cowardly attack". I guess that's an attempt to salvage some pride after having been outsmarted by people we thought were beneath us.

Certainly a clever attack. For just a little walking around money some guys on tourist visas goaded us into ruining thousands of lives, evaporating every last bit of respect the world may have had for us and wasting half a trillion dollars we couldn't afford on ventures that have only weakened us and strengthened our adversaries.

These outcomes will haunt us for decades.

What have I learned? I see now that the biggest boon for a weak leader is to find someone his country can hate. Nothing seems to unify a country behind a leader as well as having an enemy to blame for their problems. All good sense, reason and caution go out the window as people become afraid to be seen as unpatriotic.

Mere tragedy, like a natural catastrophe, isn't enough to mobilize a country. We need someone on the other side to oppose.

I guess that isn't such a staggering lesson; it's like a broken record playing through history, right? But now that I've lived through it, I understand it.

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