by David J. Rusin
In a video that aired just prior to the 2004 presidential election, American traitor and Al Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn warned his former countrymen that they would soon face a fresh wave of terror, the “magnitude and ferocity” of which “will make you forget all about September 11.” Gadahn was half right. His promised attacks never materialized, but 9/11 is well on its way to being forgotten.
Yes, this year’s anniversary will witness moments of silence, lists of names, and stories about loved ones. We can likewise anticipate poignant words from political leaders, along with obligatory reports on the nightly news. However, one fact is undeniable: the emotion and sense of purpose that swept over this country in the wake of 9/11 have dissipated. And that is what leaves us truly vulnerable to the intentions of Gadahn and his cohorts.
September 11 has taken its place alongside December 7 as a date that lives in infamy — and one that is barely contemplated during the other 364 days. But consider the contrast. More than six decades have elapsed since the raid on Pearl Harbor, and the challenges made clear on that fateful morning were resolved in another age, by another generation. Conversely, the Long War with radical Islam that began in earnest merely six years ago stands closer to its outset than its denouement. In World War II parlance, it is still early 1942, and there has not yet been a Midway or a Guadalcanal to signal the turning point.
With Iraq teetering in the balance, Iran flaunting its nuclear ambitions, Israel under siege, and Pakistan in turmoil, remembering 9/11 is more vital than ever. The traumatic images from that day — United Flight 175 slicing into the south tower, a cloud of debris rushing through the streets of Manhattan — provide striking testimony about the brutal character of Islamic extremism, the vulnerability of a free and open West, and the sober truth that fighting our enemies on foreign soil is preferable to fighting them here.
In fact, simply remembering is not enough. Memory itself is neutral. We remember bland bits of data like phone numbers and train schedules and what we ate for dinner yesterday. It is emotion that imbues such memories with substance — the phone number of someone we love, the train that took us to our first job, the dinner that we shared with old friends. No, we must not only remember 9/11. We must also remain angry.
Anger is frequently portrayed as a negative emotion that debases those who wield it. The counterpoint is offered by Bede Jarrett, a prominent Dominican priest of the early 1900s. “The world needs anger,” he argued. “The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.” Anger at an injustice spurs people to combat that injustice, as when neighbors unite to drive out drug dealers following the death of a child. Indeed, anger can be both principled and righteous — a force for good in the world.
Are you angry about 9/11 and its aftermath? I am.
I am angry at the carnage of that clear September morning, as 19 soldiers of Allah stole the lives of nearly 3,000 irreplaceable human beings. However, my anger extends far beyond those specific horrors and the terrorists who perpetrated them. Mohamed Atta can never kill again, but the malignant worldview that spawned him continues to target innocents each and every day. That ideology must be the ultimate focus of our anger.