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Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years on

It's pretty hard to avoid the fifth anniversary of September 11th, 2001 -- it's wall-to-wall. I feel myself recoiling from the commemorations slightly, as they sometimes seem to veer toward wallowing in a feeling of victimization and a sense that anything we might have done wrong since then is cancelled out by the evil unleashed on us.

Of course, it's a major national tragedy, so I'm not exactly sure how we could commemorate it in a way that would soothe my discomfort. Perhaps if we all gathered 'round for a fireside chat with President Gore about how we have won a victory against the terrorists by refusing to bite the bait for the clash of civilizations that they clearly want, opting instead for a plan to address the petro-political roots of terror backed up by more aggressive security and policing. But there's not too much point in indulging counterfactuals, we are where we are.

I recall that just after the attacks, I was spending a lot of time listening to Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break, which I had borrowed from Matt. A line in "The Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut" about how "their poker face/cannot hide the fever of the children's crusades" stuck in my head and seemed foreboding. The country's anger was so intense that -- coupled with leadership in Washington all too willing to embrace a guns-blazing response -- I was more scared of what feverish actions we would take than how the terrorists would strike next.

Those fears have come to pass, in large part. But I hope we wise up soon and start trying to address root causes instead of maintaining our permanent war footing. (See Declaring Victory by James Fallows, in last month's Atlantic Monthly, for a sketch of an alternative way to confront the terrorists, though without the addressing root causes part.)

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