I’ve made it something of a tradition over the past few years to write just one post on the anniversary of 9/11; a post about our evolving feelings on how to deal with the legacy of the terrorist attacks. This year will be no different, and this year, it is perhaps especially necessary to pause and reflect. Much of what occupies us these days is rather small; given the coverage of the past 24 hours, one would think that the future of the Republic is in question simply because one Representative from South Carolina had an outburst. But like you, I remember when there was a real question as to whether the American way of life was endangered.
It came in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when we thought that our way of life, and the openness that characterized it, would come to an end. After all, the thinking went, that very way of life helped bring about the terrorist attacks; we were not a fortress society, we had let down our guard, and the terrorists took advantage.
We have certainly made changes in the way we live since the attacks. Some of those changes have been mocked and criticized; jokes about the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coding scheme for threat levels have passed into legend. But many of those changes have worked, and if America has been able to adjust to the New Normal, it is largely because of the adaptability and ingenuity of the American people. We have identified a threat, we have adapted to it, we have continued to argue that our our open society, which has characterized us for so long, ought to remain as intact as possible, and criticisms notwithstanding, we have done a rather remarkable job at trying to be more secure, while at the same time, remaining free.
I think it is important to point this out. I would say that it is important to celebrate it, but there is nothing about the New Normal that I want to celebrate. Still, at a time when there is so much perceived division in American society, it is important to remember all the ways that we continue to unite as a nation, and all of the forces that continue to unite us. No matter what our political differences, we have not stopped believing as Americans that we are all in the same enterprise together, and that we ought to look out for each other.
Eight years ago, it was thought by some that the Republic might founder thanks to threats from abroad–and perhaps, threats from within. Those threats have not passed, but as Benjamin Franklin put it, it is still “a rising and not a setting Sun.”
As a consequence, readers will understand if I don’t worry too much about the perceived controversies of the present. They seem rather small by comparison.