"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
As opposed as I am to the war in Iraq, as much as I may question its authenticity as a meaningful action against terrorism, as much as I may find myself pondering the question of its "justness," I also find within it a profound statement of the conviction that we are simply not going to roll over and take whatever treatment the world has decided we have merited.
Unlike the Spanish election, America has not capitulated. We can debate whether or not we have taken the correct steps to confront those who would gladly deprive all of the freedoms many in the past have died to preserve; but then, we have the freedom to engage in that exchange of ideas.
For better or worse, September 11, 2001 marked a watershed--a determined advance by a small group of highly active and motivated insurgents into the heartland. For a brief time we awoke and we responded as was just and proper--we sought out the root of the problem and attempted to destroy it.
We have not been successful, not for lack of trying but because there is no root. Rather there is a mycelium--a network--small and invisible--that at any time can give rise to yet another fungal bloom. A dandelion is relatively easy to confront, mushrooms much less so.
September 11 does not justify any and all actions, but whenever we pause to question what we are doing and whether it is right, the memory of it should add weight to the reflection. September 11 was a declaration on the part of a very small part of the world that they have no intention of tolerating or respecting anything outside of the range of their political and religious philosophy.
We make a serious error when we attribute this strain of thought to an entire group. And we make a serious error if we think this strain of thought justifies the deprivation of any group of people any part of the rights guaranteed by our law; that way also lay defeat.
Rather, we need to be aware, enlightened, and seriously determined to move forward in the defense of the freedoms we have had handed to us on a silver platter. We are a privileged people living in a hard time.
from The Crisis, December 23, 1776
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Atheist, he may have been, but what he said then stands now; and today gives us pause to remember it.
We do an injustice to those innocent people who died that day if we ever forget the truths that made this country great. They were not soldiers, they were not martyrs, they were our friends, our families, our colleagues, our co-religionists--people we loved and whom we remember today--people whose lives give great weight to any battle we wage to prevent further such outrages. These innocent people we must not forget, for in so doing, we put the lives of a great many others at risk.