Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/11: Taking it Personally

When I learned of the attack on America five years ago, and watched with anger and horror the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York and the chaos and devastation in a section of Manhattan I knew intimately (having worked on Wall Street off an on for ten years), I took it personally.

When I saw the attack on the Pentagon, and learned of the heroism of those who fought to reclaim the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, I took it personally.

When I saw the jubilation with which American and foreign Muslims drooled over the attacks, I took that personally, as well.

These were, in a sense, attacks on me, as well as on America and other Americans.

By "personally," I mean that I regarded the attacks and the jubilation as affronts to everything I value about America - as it once was, and it could be.

The "personal" aspect does not encompass George Bush, either of the Clintons, the welfare state that hobbles me, or anything else that could be deemed inimical to the idea and future of America. What is it that was attacked? Freedom. Individualism. Capitalism. Living and thriving on earth in the freest country on the planet. Everything that I have enjoyed and that other Americans can enjoy. In the context of what is possible to an individual when he is left alone to pursue his own values and life - all that is personal.

And that is what the Islamic totalitarians and their self-sacrificing drones attacked, and will continue to attack, until we reply in kind, with their annihilation.

For a while after 9/11, most healthy, uncorrupted Americans took it personally, too. (The exceptions were the leftist intellectuals and other anti-American creeps.) The blossoming of thousands of American flags, the expressions of defiance and patriotism, the pledges to never surrender to our attackers, gave one hope that perhaps Americans were not entirely beaten by the spiritually crippling influences of collectivism and philosophical nihilism.

But the flags were eventually retired, the patriotism morphed into self-pity, and the pledges were broken (chiefly by President Bush). Most Americans forgot their moments of glory, the personal aspect of the attacks. It was time, our political leaders and the press kept saying, as they turned their attention to "business as usual," to get on with life.

For a while, I had something in common with other Americans: a sense of personal value, a sense of shared peril. Gradually, but not inexplicably, I observed that sense fade into resignation.

I will say here that I have never lost that sense of personal value, not before 9/11, not since. The sense of taking personally any assault on my freedom, my mind, my future, was before 9/11 reserved for every politician and collectivist and irrationalist in this country who presumed to govern my life and actions. Now there was an external enemy dedicated to my submission or my destruction.

I do not see that many Americans still take it personally. Most have gone on with their lives, encouraged by our government and an administration that does not seem to able to deal rationally and finally with a mortal threat.

Nevertheless, I will always take those attacks on this country personally as a war declared on me personally for what I am. I can be destroyed, but I will never submit. America-haters, foreign and domestic: Go to hell.

I will simply end here with the slogan and battle cry of the heroes of my Sparrowhawk novels: "Long Live Lady Liberty!"

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