When irony cannot be ignored
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does quite often rhyme.” — Mark Twain (Samuel Clements)
The above quotation, one of my favorites, was one of two which immediately came to mind when the news broke this weekend — via “tweet,” of course — that President Trump had decided not to do something none of us knew he was considering — the absolutely awful idea of having something a little too much like capitulation talks with the Taliban at Camp David, only days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The other one was Pogo’s famous observation that “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
For no better reason than currying favor with his political base, just like his constitutionally questionable confiscation of FEMA funds in the wake of a hurricane and military construction monies to build his mind-bogglingly stupid wall, the president in advance of an election year wants to fulfill a campaign promise. And while he’s hardly alone among presidents for that, this is clearly not the way to do it.
For in addition to its geo-political folly, both the irony and the symbolism of such an act would have been obscenely staggering.
It has been almost 20 years, folks. There is a generation of children who just graduated high school and headed off to college who do not remember it — who do not remember the day that has become this country’s “new” date that “will live in infamy,” the day that fundamentally changed the United States in ways it has yet to fully recognize and ways with which it may never fully come to grips.
Yes, we need to end the war in Afghanistan and yes, we need to bring our long serving and suffering troops home, but not like that, not in a manner that screams so loudly as to echo the ethical emptiness of Chamberlain at Munich and as such, dishonor the bravery and service of young men and women alive and dead.
Because the tragic legacy of Sept. 11, 2001, of what we have come to know simply as 9-11, is that 19 mostly Saudi zealots did what neither the awesome British empire or the Nazi war machine or the Soviet nuclear boogeyman could do — turn a proud and powerful people into a frightened one.
Little good often comes from fear and little good has.
Men and women, even the best of them, even the smartest of them, stop thinking when they become afraid. Fear robs men and women, even the best of them, of their judgment. Fear robs men and women, even the smartest of them, of their reason.
The real legacy of 9-11 is the fear that yet abides and manifests in so much of what we do and don’t do in this country today. I never thought I would live to see the America which has devolved in the years since that fateful day, because from sea to shining sea so many of its crucial contours have been eroded away. I find myself a stranger in a strange land because so many of the old, familiar American landmarks are no longer visible.
And while I might not have been able to envision that which contemporary America has become, George Orwell could have — and did.
If you have young children, or grandchildren, perhaps you should tuck this away somewhere safe so that one day they might read about the United States of America that existed before Sept. 11, 2001, for what has taken place in the years since leads me to believe with some certainty that America will never been seen again:
Before 9/11, the United States was not trillions of dollars in debt, and for a brief time, actually had a budget surplus. I know how incredible that must seem, but it is true.
Before 9/11, the United States was not engaged in perpetual warfare on multiple fronts and had not seen thousands of its children soldiers die and 10 times that many maimed in combat.
Before 9/11, there was something in this country called habeas corpus which prevented someone from being locked away for years before ever seeing a judge, and the executive branch of government actually obeyed subpoenas issued by the now self-emasculated legislative branch.
Before 9/11, United States citizens were free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the government’s alphabet agencies could not just spy on citizens or collect electronic dossiers on them. Really. No kidding.
Before 9/11, the very concept of torture was alien and abhorrent to Americans. We truly did not do such a thing, would not consider doing such thing, rather than playing semantic games with such a disgusting subject and debating over the equivalent of “what is, is.”
Our own fears have made us do what more than 200 years of enemies foreign and domestic could not — sit idly by, figuratively huddled and cowering, as so much of what defined us as a people was progressively sacrificed.
We forgot Benjamin Franklin’s long ago wisdom: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot.