The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is all over the news and the Web this morning. As ever in recent years, I'm of two minds about this. It is a date of somber significance, and we did go after the men responsible (and got most of 'em, too). But the reaction expanded the scope and power of the federal government in dangerous and alarming ways; it fueled prejudice at home, jingoism and nation-building outside our borders, and mired America in our longest, fourth-longest and sixth-longest wars.
And what did we do on 7 December 1961 or 15 February 1918,* anyway? 24 August 1834 seems to have passed without notice, yet it was the twentieth anniversary of a truly terrible event of profound national significance. Nevertheless, 9/11 remains a solemn marker, the day many of us first realized how thin the walls were; rank it with the attack on Pearl Harbor, 22 November 1963 or the last two weeks of October, 1929 as a devastating jolt.
After each of 'em, most Americans pulled together to deal with events. People speak warmly of those times, almost longingly despite the awful circumstances--
--And yet here we are, a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, more divided than ever. President Biden spoke yesterday, outlining a series of steps to fight COVID-19, most of them well within the power of the President (expect the courts to get rung in on the ability of OSHA to require employee vaccination and testing at any business employing a hundred or more people, and won't that be fun?). Pushback has already begun along partisan political lines, some of it hyperbolically overwrought.
We have a common enemy. It's a blind biological robot, not some old guy in a suit with a fancy office and a 24/7 job. It's not your neighbor, masked or maskless, vaccinated or not. It's not your mayor or Governor. It's a damned virus, and the sooner we can get it under control, the sooner we can get back to having political arguments over things that matter instead of embracing crazy nonsense.
I'm not holding my breath.
* Admittedly, we had other worries then, up to our necks in a World War and, all unbeknownst, on the very threshold of the devastating influenza pandemic that would be officially marked as beginning early the next month. Stars and Stripes for that date features an interesting headline: "AMERICA DROPS POLITICAL GAME TO WIN THE WAR." Make a note that; the notion will resurface later.
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