Every year as September 11th approaches, Americans ramp up the ritual of narcissistic self pity about the terrorist attack on that date in 2001. I hear cries of "9/11 changed everything!" and "Never forget!" as if 9/11 actually changed anything and as if there were any possibility that it would be forgotten. Yes, the attacks on September 11, 2001 were terrible, and it is a pity that so many died, but let's try to have a little perspective.
Londoners in World War II endured rocket attacks and death and destruction without wallowing in bathos. Half of Europe experienced devastating bombings, and today little is made of it. Japan was nuked, for crying out loud, and the Japanese do not define themselves by their victimization. The Old World endured those monsters Stalin, Hitler and Mao with tens of millions dead and tens of millions more in agony. And yet life goes on and moves forward in a way that does not permit the monsters of the past to define the future or the present. Even today, there are places where suffering and death occur on a scale which renders 9/11 insignificant. Indeed, Americans have inflicted far greater suffering and death in their reaction to 9/11 on victims who had nothing to do with 9/11 than occurred on 9/11.
Where's our stiff upper lip? Why do we display such an obsession with 9/11 and surrender to a stupid eliminationist reaction? Is it because Americans are terrified? If so, the terrorists have achieved their aims.
Do you hate and fear Muslims now when before 9/11 you didn't even know they existed or didn't even give them a second thought? Then the terrorists have succeeded with you.
Are you ready to shred the Constitution and surrender your liberties for the illusion of security? Then the terrorists have succeeded with you.
Do you buy into the irrational notion that Islamist extremists pose an existential threat? Then they have you right where they want you. You are afraid of shadows.
9/11 changed nothing for me. I am not afraid. You should not be, either. Take a good long look at the figures in the media and in politics who stoke your fears. They are doing the terrorists' work; their interests are aligned with those of the terrorists. They want you afraid, because when you afraid you are stupid. And when you are stupid, you will support them. Don't be afraid; don't be stupid; don't let 9/11 change anything.