Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9-11

On September 11, 2001, a group of well-equipped jihadists managed to fly planes into the two World Trade Center towers, into the Pentagon, while failing to fly a fourth plane into the Capital. All those on board the planes died, as well as almost 3000 people on the ground. The twin towers both fell under their own weight.

The impact of this event has been profound. It was like America was raped and lost any sense it had that the world was a safe place. We have heard of wars and atrocities, but they have always seemed so far away, something that happens to people we don't think much about. I couldn't have found Afghanistan on a map before 9-11. Places like Somalia, Yemen--not on my radar.

And then our own human nature kicked in. We wanted to hurt someone really bad. We went tribal or, to put it in more civilized terms, we went nationalistic. The result has been a mixture of good and bad, in my opinion. It's a physiological fact that you can't reason as well when you are furious with anger (the limbic system overcomes the cerebral cortex) and the last 9 years have plenty of that. As we cool off, we are in a better position to assess our new trajectories and make good decisions about where we should go from here.

1. All except the whackos (and there are some of them) agree that we should honor the almost 3000 souls who died that day. Was this God's judgment on America? I don't have much time for those who think in those terms. "The soul that does the sinning, it shall die" says Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31. In both cases, the prophet is countering the idea that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children.

It's old Old Testament thinking to think God kills Jane to judge John. There were plenty of Christians in good standing who died that day. No doubt some who died were good people and some who died were not, but we honor all the dead as victims of an atrociously evil act.

2. I personally don't have a problem with us overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban who were in charge were forces of evil in cahoots with Al-Qaeda and bin Laden. Good riddance... except of course that they're not gone...

3. I give immense blame to the Bush administration for what I consider is one of the worse decisions in American history--it could actually turn out to bring us down. Rather than capitalize on the good will of the entire world, rather than empower all the moderate Muslims in the world who were very sympathetic to us at the time, rather than finish the job in Afghanistan, the Bush administration enacted a macro-plan to bring stability in the Middle East by starting an unprovoked war in Iraq.

The result was the empowerment of Muslim extremism around the world and the ensuing polarization of "us versus them" that we've seen just this week in the ignoramus pastor wanting to burn a Quran in Florida. The result was the election of Ahmadinejad in Iran over the moderate party there--a direct result of our invasion of Iraq. The current financial crisis came directly from the housing crash but has had immense assistance from the financial bleeding of our wars in the Middle East. Make no mistake, the current financial crisis was not caused by the Obama administration.

I am sympathetic to the Congress that voted for war in Iraq. It would have been political suicide not to do so at the time for all except the Democrats who were in such liberal districts that their re-election was in no danger (which includes Obama). But Congress made a bad decision fueled by the seething country only a couple years out from 9-11 at that point.

The election of Obama showed that the majority of the country had cooled down enough to realize the mistake that Iraq was. A vote for Obama was a vote for change, a vote away from the Iraq decisions of Bush, perhaps more than a vote for Obama himself. Nevertheless, a significant portion remains angry, perhaps most easily pictured in the Tea Party movement.

4. Xenophobia is clearly on the rise right now. This also follows naturally on 9-11. All Muslims are painted with the same stroke as bin Laden, which of course is ignorance. Hatred against Mexican immigrants is at an all time high as well, again, a natural consequence of post 9-11 anger, misdirected of course. Of course there is nothing Christian about any of this and if your "church" preaches this sort of thing, you should go somewhere else that preaches social justice like the Bible does.

5. We have seen an extreme "conservative" back lash these last nine years. When it was disempowered in the 2008 election, it went psycho. Put Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan in someone's body today and these circles would call them liberals and socialists. Thankfully, anger can only burn so long. It lasted in Nazi Germany less than 15 years. I predict that the extreme conservative voices right now will run out of steam soon enough, and we can go back to normal conservatism like John McCain used to be. Ironically, this guy I used to like has had to go rogue even to stay in office as a senator.

Today I honor the dead of 9-11. And I will honor them most if I do not let the atrocity of that day distract me from truly American values, rather than the skewed ones of the current burn. America is a friend of the world. We are a friend of Muslims and Mexicans, and we want to make a way for anyone who wishes to live peaceably under our laws to live with us. We are a force for good in the world, but we're not stupid about it. People don't believe you're their friend when you tell them at the end of a gun.

You don't have to be a Christian to live here. We do not make laws to make American law mirror "Christian law"any more than God forces the world to obey Him. He prefers for the world to choose Him freely, not by force. That's not the God presupposed by the Constitution or the Christian God I worship.

This moment too shall pass. Hopefully we will not be ruined from the consequent damage in the mean time.


::athada:: said...

Thanks for the reasonable, thoughtful overview.

Passing this on to my Pakistani-American Muslim friend. I wrote her a note while the NYC Islamic Center issue was flaming and she passed it on to friends. Hope she will do the same with your reflections.

JohnM said...


#3 - I give immense blame to the Bush administration for the same reason you do, among other reasons. Frankly the only honorable thing for Bush to have done was resign, once the WMD proved to be fiction. I'm not so sure I let congress off the hook so easily though. For members who were duped, like most of the rest of the country, some sympathy. However, any who supported the war in spite of knowing better, or against instinct and against conscience, for the sake of political survival, are wholly unqualified and unworthy to remain in government. And I'm putting it nicely. Of course, for a long time now congress hasn't mattered so much as it should when it comes to waging war. Our Imperial Presidents do pretty much as they see fit, and no, one party is not worse than another about it.

Kevin Jackson said...

I'm disappointed in this Dr Schenck. Usually you are thoughtful and fair. I found this post to be one sided and to deliberately misrepresent what conservatives like myself believe.

The housing crisis was caused by government meddling. Government backed mortgages (Freddie, Fannie) allowed people to "buy" houses with no money down. These programs were advocated by Democrats. If everyone had to put money down, there would have been no bubble.

I work for a credit union. We don't do mortgages unless the buyer puts down at least 10%. We have had zero foreclosures over the last 5 years.

Obama has not been a successful president. He and congress have borrowed too much money. Excessive borrowing is short sighted and hurts our nation long term. Obama has borrowed more in 19 months than Bush did in 8 years. Yet we still have unemployment at 9.6% and rising. During the Bush years, average unemployment was 5.2%. It was under 7% when Obama was elected.

Obama promised us that he would usher in an era of transparent government. Instead he has rammed through partisan bills without debate. He pushed through a partisan health care bill that 60% of America opposed. And he passed this bill with no way to pay for it. More than any other reason, this is why conservatives are motivated this election cycle.

Obama promised a post racial government. He instead has been divisive and has caused an increase in racial tensions. I'm against illegal immigration, not because of "Hatred against Mexican immigrants", but because immigration ought to be orderly, managed, and legal. You deliberately misrepresent the debate here.

The tea party has largly developed because the policital class in Washington is out of touch with America. Tea partiers want a government that is responsive to its constituents. The tea party wants a government that lives on what it makes, just like the rest of us do. More than anything else, the tea party is a rejection of the partisan and arrogant way in which Obama and the Democratic congress has governed. If Obama had been the uniter that he promised, there would be no tea party.

I agree with you that Iraq was a mistake. Bush should have stuck with just Afghanistan. Still, your take here is one sided and ignores some of the good things that have come out of the conflict. Hussein is out of power, and the people of Iraq have much more freedom now than they did 8 years ago. That is good.

I think too that you are mistaken with the assumptions about Iran. The Shiites have largely favored and benefited from the Iraq conflict. Ahmadinejad was elected because the hard-liners in Iran wanted him to be, not because of the Iraq conflict. And there is no doubt that Ahmadinejad lost the last election.

Thanks for letting me speak. I hope I have not come across as inflammatory. It was my intent to be fair and to accurately represent your points. God bless.

Ken Schenck said...

Kevin, I welcome push back on anything I post. Thanks for taking the time.

I was trying not to get into evaluating Obama either way but more to look at the trajectories that led to his election. I believe there are lots of good people in the Tea Party but don't you think it would be true to say that the angry "conservatives" of which I speak have also found a place to vent there?

Tosco Weber said...

That's your business, Mr. Schenk. Well, good luck!