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9/11 Fatigue Ignores Real Meaning of Date
Six years after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a stark field in Pennsylvania, a lot of Americans are getting bored with the obsessive desire to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
That was the essence of a front-page story in this past Sunday's New York Times, dated Sept. 2. Indeed, the piece reflects a growing tendency to downplay both 9/11 and the desire to mourn its many victims. After all, we are told, more than 60 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans no longer obsess over the cataclysmic events of Dec. 7.
In that light, some people believe that it's time to start tamping down the hype and placing the day in its proper historical perspective -- as a national tragedy, for sure, but not one that should dominate our thinking or the way we live our lives.
The problem with this line of thinking is that, as grievous as the murder of the nearly 3,000 individuals proved to be, the horror of the events went deeper than just the loss of these men, women and children. Americans understood that what had happened was not just an isolated criminal act or a large loss of life that would be expected in, say, a natural disaster, but a direct assault on the symbols of U.S. sovereignty and commerce.
Though it was not the first time that Al Qaeda had attacked, it was the moment that most of us understood that there was a war going on between Islamists and the West. We also knew that the United States must start taking that war seriously. Implicit in this understanding was the notion that our national apathy about Islamic terrorism -- a 9/10 mentality -- had to end.
At the same time, Americans also began to comprehend that there was little difference between Al Qaeda and the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah terrorists -- all of whom are still engaged in terror attacks on Israel.
While not all measures adopted by the government to fight back have been universally popular, few quibbled with the idea that aggressive counterterrorist strategies were a must. But little by little, support for this way of thinking about the misnamed "war on terrorism" (it is not a war on terror, but one against the Islamists who have employed terrorist tactics against us) has eroded.
Part of the problem is that these efforts have, at least to date, been successful, and there has been no repeat of 9/11 or worse. That's something few of us thought likely six years ago. The unpopular stalemated war in Iraq has also undermined the national consensus, as has the belief on the part of many administration critics that this issue has been manipulated for political gain.
So, it's little surprise that many of us would start to think of 9/11 as just another tragic date on which a lot of people died, and not a point around which the nation needed to rally.
This spirit has also affected our ability to think clearly about groups that form the support system for terror. Indeed, organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North American -- both named as unindicted co-conspirators in the prosecution of those funding Hamas terrorists -- are being treated as not only legitimate, but worthy of defense by both politicians and even some Jewish leaders.
If that is the direction in which our national conversation is heading, we will be making a huge mistake. Though, thank heaven, Islamic terrorists have not yet duplicated Sept. 11, they've not ceased their efforts to do so. As Israelis have come to learn, the battle against these groups cannot be won in a day or even a year, but requires both patience and perseverance.
While some of us may be tired of remembering 9/11, a return to the apathy of 9/10 is a luxury that no one can afford.