9/11: A Revealed Disunity
by Andy Joppa
“I wish I had died before I experienced 9/11”
Aimee Joppa, as she approached death the following year
You’ve all been exposed to many 9/11 retrospectives. What follows is my brief “looking back”, followed by my attempt to “fracture” a mythology that followed that horrifying event. It is that mythology that creates the purpose of this essay.
9/11 is often cited as a day that revealed that the American people were really unified under all the thick layers of political conflict. We were all just “good old” Americans when “push came to shove.” Our differences were only skin deep, while our commonalties…our sameness… went right to the bone. Here is an example of this “fantasy” as expressed by Rudy Giuliani. I use Rudy (who I like and knew) not because his remark was unusual, but that it was the norm:
“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” —Rudy Giuliani
We now know, 18 years after the attacks of 9/11, that these remarks were little more than a romanticized expression of a reality that didn’t exist.
My experiences, and subsequent events after 9/11, showed just the opposite. As best I can tell, I might be the only one who had this experience or, more realistically, the only one not willing to participate in the charade of a unified American people. If you know anyone else talking like this…let me know.
There are two public moments that caused me to become desolate with grief. I was certainly not unique in those responses. As a young man, the assassination of JFK had an overwhelming impact. I still believe that his loss, on November 22, 1963, was the most significant turning point in this nation’s past. But…I am over that moment…it has faded into being little more than a part of history.
The other event, of course, was September 11, 2001. 9/11 remains vivid in my memory and, more importantly, in the very ongoing nature of our nation. No… I am not over 9/11…and never will be. We each retain an intense memory of that day. I will describe mine, not because my experience of that event was so exceptional but, more so, because what I experienced in the aftermath of the WTC coming down, is different than anything else I’ve heard described.
The last thing I want to do is to turn 9/11 into a political statement. Yet…I experienced the aftermath of that event in ways that deserve to be understood. It has long been stated, with a sense of pride, that we were unified as a nation, as a people, when the sun came up on September 12, 2001.
There is no doubt that we were somewhat unified in our grief…but the underlying interpretation of the causes of 9/11 showed a basic disunity that has continued till today. From my perspective, what was revealed in the aftershock of that horrible moment was made manifest when I attended a large community meeting (approximately 200) of academics and students, three weeks after the attack.
It would not be an exaggeration to offer that I was the only one in attendance who actively defended America. All other inputs dealt with…” what had America done to cause this to take place”? Why would these “young men (the terrorists)” take such drastic action unless they were provoked by our indiscretions? What should we have done differently so they would not have felt this action was such a “necessity?”
Other than my own…no comments were offered as absolute condemnations of this assault on our country. An assault, in fact, on all humanity; with scores of nations having come together for peaceful exchange at the WTC.
Any of my attempts to define these acts as being motivated by an essential commitment to Islamic jihad were rejected out of hand…a discussion not even being possible. I do not comment here on the issue of pro or anti-Islam. What I saw displayed, and what was revealing, was anti-Americanism. The comments were not just issue driven but showed an essential hatred of America itself. I could hear it not only in the context of their remarks but also in the vitriol with which they were offered. I was somewhat startled that this mostly American audience showed so much contempt for their country.
In addition, almost immediately, media comments were made suggesting that President Bush had failed in not preventing these attacks. While there was not a shred of proof that this was true, this president, in office less than 8 months, was blamed by many in the MSM. Coupled with this were the conspiracy theories that our government had launched the attack itself to create a provocation to attack Islamic countries. These absurd concepts are still believed by many, even today. Almost any negative comment made about America, true or false, will gain permanence in the public debate.
Were we unified? Other than as a moment of grief…not in the least. The multiple terrorist attacks during the 90’s, including the attempt to bring down the Towers in 1993, meant nothing to those who compulsively felt the need to blame America for anything that was wrong…anywhere. There is no doubt that same mentality exists today. All that has changed is it’s even deeper, more publicly acknowledged, and forms the campaign platform of many on the Left.
Perhaps I should have been more aware that America had bifurcated. Perhaps I should have been more aware that these just weren’t American critics of America, but those that loathed it. Perhaps I should have been more aware of the insidious ideologies that existed, that has its intent the destruction of our nation. From that moment forward, however, I have never lost sight of the fact that America must be defended. It must be defended more from its internal enemies than its external adversaries. Islam was a serious threat…the internal threat was, and remains, existential.