9/11 – The More Things Change…

My daughter will turn 10 before the end of the year.

For her, what happened 10 years ago today is just part of the reality of her world.  There is no before and after, there is just the way things are.  Onerous security check points and having to remove your shoes at the airport, or getting pulled aside for a full pat-down and luggage inspection because it is a slow period at the check point and the TSA people find it easier to meet their quota of such checks when they are not busy, that is just part of her world.

There has been a war going on in Afghanistan forever as far as she knows and there was another one in Iraq, which I guess we won in the end.  It is the Middle-east and just because something looks one way on a given day doesn’t make it the long-term reality.  And the Afghan conflict is the just pointy end of a whole global war on terrorism that has bred an anxiety that we might be victims at any time.

And I think about this and wonder how strange that is as essentially a starting point for ones own personal reality.

How different from my own.

And yet how similar.

Because when I was nearly 10, planes were being hijacked in the Middle-east.  Security checkpoints were being put into airports to keep people from getting on to planes with weapons.  Granted, things were less serious.  I remember coming back from a trade show about 15 years ago and one of my co-workers realizing he still had a 4″ folding knife in his pocket while we were at the check point.  The agent looked at the knife, unfolded it, and held it up so his supervisor.  The supervisor looked at it and shrugged.  The agent folded it, handed it back, and away we went, better armed that any of the 9/11 hijackers.

And there had been a war going on in Vietnam forever for as far as I knew.  It was there on the evening news every night.  But that was just the pointy end of the stick in relation to the whole cold war, a war that we seemed to be losing.  Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle-east seemed to be falling in line with the Soviet Union while NATO quibbled over details as the French tried to distance themselves from the whole thing.

And over this hung the specter of nuclear war, sudden instant death that might fall on us with at most a 30 minute warning.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I was able to make sense of much of what was going on when I was 10.  There I was able to see how hollow the advance of the Soviet Union in the third world really was.  Turns out a lot of people will mouth your philosophy if it legitimizes their dictatorship and gets them some guns.

And there was plenty of stupidity to go around in the west as well.  There were plenty of examples demonstrating that merely being against something, like Communism, was not a viable political philosophy.  Being an enemy of our “enemy” should not necessarily make you a friend, as any number of our past friends should indicate.  The same goes for some of our current “friends.”

But all that was only easy to spot after the fact.  Hindsight is a much more exact science than seeing into the future.  At that moment in time in the past, as with any given moment of time now, the government felt the need to be “doing” something and most people accepted that something needed to be done.  But did we do the right things?

The judgement of history takes time.  And for something like 9/11, a polarizing event like Pearl Harbor, history almost has to wait until all of those affected… which is almost every one of us… have passed on before a real assessment can be made.  Those of us with an emotional point of view to defend cannot write an objective history.

So I wonder how the history of this time will be written, though I will no doubt be long gone before the whole thing can be seen in a broader context.

And I wonder what the children of my daughter’s generation, those to be born 10-30 years from now, will see as normal facts of life as they are growing up.

5 thoughts on “9/11 – The More Things Change…

  1. coppertopper

    “Those of us with an emotional point of view to defend cannot write an objective history.”

    Very sublime. I’ve been struggling with this all day, as I want to lash out somehow, but can’t really find a target that doesn’t just blanket target the fully garbed out Muslim at the local grocery store.Its clear that 10yrs is not enough to provide the hindsight needed to rationalize it all.


  2. p0tsh0t

    I’d be interested to know what the experience of those generations older than ours think about our modern history.

    As I recall from the dim memories of my youth, historical events occurred seldom and generally caused all to pause and take note– the big ones at least.

    As its always been, the beginning of the next big thing has always been tough for the one experiencing it to judge. Not so much for the big stuff which was distinct.

    For our not-so-greatest generation, we might have the Apollo moon landing, Apollo 13, Nixon’s resignation, the Manson murders, the Munich Olympics, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Egypt-Israeli peace accord, the AIDS epidemic, Reagan’s assassination attempt, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Challenger accident, etc.

    In retrospect, each memory feels like it fills a separate and distinct chapter in a book. It was obviously historical at the time, but the narrative took some time to coalesce. Months, maybe years.

    Now, in the world of the 24 hour news cycle of always “breaking” news, it feels to me at least like the attempt is to write the history as its happening– and to make everything that happens rise to the level of historical significance. At least for that hour, for that week.

    I wonder if our parents and grandparents generation felt the same. After Pearl Harbor, Normandy, VE and VJ Day, did the news cycle accelerate? Was the history of the Berlin Airlift, Korean War, Bay of Pigs, and Vietnam being written in real time for them?

    In a world where everything happening at the moment is most important, nothing is important. I have thing nagging suspicion, that we (those of us over 40 at least) are the last generation to experience history as the time-aged, distilled essence of wisdom that can only come from a certain separation in time from the events in question, and yes, a bit of the benefit of hindsight to guide us.

    I’m reminded of how shockingly little direct experience was related to us from those that actually took part in those historical events the narrative of which has become wrote to us. My grandfather served in WWI in France, my father enlisted in the Navy in September 1941 and was stateside until Pearl Harbor happened. One of his first assignments was to go to Pearl for the clean up in December.

    Neither of them, and likewise almost none of their generation, volunteered any of that information. The analysis of the impact and magnitude of the experiences were left to the historians to compile, assess, weigh, analyze and synthesize. A process that could only occur in the years that passed.

    No one interviewed my sister, born in 1951, what it was like to have a Dad who was almost at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Nor should they. History today seems to be written not by the victors, but by the narcissists.

    Even today, the marketing of the mundane as the magnificent, the temporal as the timeless do a grave disservice to all of those who were there, who still are here and who persevere. Those events and the experiences of those who were there or who are impacted deserve their experiences to be chronicled.

    As you say, “Those of us with an emotional point of view to defend cannot write an objective history.” Indeed. But in a world where “history” is written in real time, whither that objective history?

    For me, its all so maddening. To me, the history is only just beginning to be ripe for the writing when the mourning, anger and the pain of loss begin to subside. And those things we should never forget, but should also never confuse with history.


  3. ScytheNoire

    You need to study your history more. Read about how Hitler came to power. Now compare that to what happened in America. Compare the after effects. See what is really happening.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Yeah… *I* need to read more history.

    Are you seriously suggesting something like 9/11 = the Reichstag fire? Because you seem to be headed down the paranoid looney path.

    Compare post 9/11 to McCarthyism, the Red Scare, or Sacco and Vanzetti if you like, but Nazi Germany? I think YOU need to study history more if you think you can go there.

    Or were you just trying to illustrate that “emotional viewpoint” statement I made?


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