Ten years later one has to wonder what happened to the fleeting display of national pride and unity. Predictably, the shock and horror of September 11, 2001 profoundly affected Americans across the political spectrum, regardless of socio-economic status. Yet, after days and weeks of shared grief and resilience, there was an refreshing mood of compassion, courtesy and caring — and, it goes without saying, resilience, especially here in New York City — but those co-dependent corridors steadily receded, only to be succeeded by a decade of disharmony and detestable wars.
Was that brief, shining moment too good to be true? Can it only be summoned following a collective tragedy? The terrorist acts not only incited conspicuous, exceptional flashes of patriotism, but they also triggered a decade of spending splurges and dire consequences in which we are currently mired.
After that awful autumn-like day, many of us remained horrified, but became unified over a singular issue — the capture and trial (or death) of Osama bin Laden and his fellow architects of terrorism. But even that passion waned as the al Qaeda leader proved elusive — until last spring. Nonetheless, when our objectives for retribution and justice detoured to refocus on the War on Terror and Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction that had no connection to 9/11, except in the minds of the top echelon of the Bush Administration (President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld), a national cacophony began to emerge.
The enduring divisiveness will surely be suspended during Sunday’s collective commemoration of the terrorist attacks. But, soon after the tears are wiped away and 9/11 recedes into our shared consciousness, the discord will certainly rush back.
Politicians seem to thrive on dysfunction and hysteria in order to justify their existence to fix the system. It almost seems as if Democrats and Republicans are always on the verge of grumbling about whether it’s night or what day of the week it is!
No one expects our politicians to kowtow or literally kiss each other’s asses — though that would be a welcome sight to many — but for the last two years Republicans seem to have a singular goal — get Obama out of the White House. For some it’s his politics, which turned out not to be as left of center as some envisioned, for others it’s his lack of leadership, which has not matured as some supporters desired, and to a small minority it’s the fact that they never wanted a black president, unless it would have possibly been former Gen. Colin Powell.
Remember when topics of debate were limited and disagreements were more or less civil? Everyone talked in circles and didn’t agree on much, but there was, at least, some consensus on what we should be talking about. Now, Americans, especially elected ones, seem to argue 24/7 about one thing or another. All-news, all-the-time cable channels and the Internet dispense an inordinate amount of heated discussions that provoke constant brouhahas.
Now that the vast cavity at Ground Zero, which once contained the identifiable New York City skyline, is rising in a blitz of concrete, glass and steel, it reminds me of one of the countless messages placed on the fencing that surrounded Ground Zero years ago. It read: “You have destroyed our buildings, but not our foundations.”
It’s now up to our purported leaders — elected and other wise — to keep that in mind as they must strive to strengthen the foundations of confidence that have, due largely to their dogmatism, been weakened in the decade after our nation was forever changed.
Instead of focusing on the next election, politicians must rework their agendas and concentrate on vital national issues. It’s probably too much to ask from a group mostly comprise of ego-driven men and women, but they, too, must rise — above their petty squabbles and rally as our countrymen did back then — to meet the challenges that have mounted in the last decade or the aftermath of 9/11/01 will persist another ten years.