My dad was born on September 11, 1938. On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years. We relive the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.
Military adventurism continues almost unabated since that cautionary moment in our history. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we are now doing our best to intervene in the area again. Stationing troops in the form of advisors, lending military aid to the Iraqi government that has made it pretty clear they don’t want our help anymore.
The Republican candidates for President can’t promise they’ll declare war on enough countries fast enough to suit their Halliburton backers. At the very least a war with Iran will be in the promises that a Republican candidate for President will bring to the campaign trail, as if we haven’t had enough war for several lifetimes in the last two decades.
Americans remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.
My father did his time in the military. I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve. Dad didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there. As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said. I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more on the subject, but that view has stuck with me ever since.
Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday. Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant. It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that. It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright’s piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember. They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.Stonekettle Station
So in that sentiment I’d just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father. Happy birthday dad, wherever you are. I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans. Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?
This post was revised and reposted in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. One of these days I’ll get around to writing the story I really want to tell on this anniversary.