I did not prepare a special post for today. I have only random thoughts.
I found myself wondering last night what I could say about the events of September 11, 2001 that would be 'fresh.' Then I realized that to even think like that was self-centered.
It occurred to me that, for the survivors of the attacks, nothing about them will ever be 'fresh'; they are an unalterable fact of a permanently altered life. Unlike the rest of us, these people do not need to 'pause to remember'; the shape of their daily lives is a constant remembrance.
Maybe it is like a scar that is normally covered by clothing. By day it is invisible to you and to everyone else, but when you stand in the shower you can look down and see it: fading slowly, no longer a rude surprise, but permanent nonetheless.
I won't speculate further on that subject. Of all the losses in my life, none has been so terrible as theirs.
I can speak a little about the rest of us, though. Many people will always remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that a series of airplanes had been slammed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Some call it "the day the world changed."
I disagree. The world did not change on that day. Instead, some things were brought forcibly to our attention.
Hatred was one of those things. New and baffling forms of hatred danced in front us like demons, jeering.
Self-hatred came first. Like a husband lecturing a battered wife, legions of intellectuals came forward to explain to America why she was to blame for her beatings.
I think, therefore I hate-- myself.
Civilizational hatred came next. Litres of ink were spilled explaining to us in great detail how U.S. culture was viewed by the attackers and their supporters. Still more ink was used in explaining the attacker's culture to Americans.
The world was divided into tribes. Free and not free. Fundamentalist and secular. Eastern and Western.
But the neat divisions did not explain one fact: one of the tribes hated the other so much that they thought even its unarmed civilians should be exterminated. The news of ordinary men and women trapped in burning buildings was cause for celebration.
The demons capered, babbling in tongues. Some of us covered our ears. Others tried to babble back, shouting hatred at hatred.
Ragged, struggling countries leapt from the edge of the map to the center of the universe: Afghanistan. Pakistan. Iraq. Ordinary Americans who could scarcely pronounce their names now saw their sons and daughters going there to fight. Events in these unseen places now had direct consequences in their lives.
For ordinary Americans the world has not changed so much as become visible and unavoidable. Maybe for us it's like that scar in the shower. A permanent change in what we see- and how we see ourselves.