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The Ghastly Curtain and the Great Anxiety: 9/11 and it’s Aftermath

September 11, 2008

The Ghastly Curtain

Seven years ago, it is said, the world changed.

It didn’t.

What happened is that the world was revealed to us as changed. Like some ghastly curtain, the twin towers came down and showed this country that we are not safe, not in control and in the midst of a very dangerous world that has large factions actively set against our success and tranquility.

And we as a nation are still in the process dealing with it.

The towers went down. The planes went down. But the ghastly curtain went up, not down. The ghastly curtain was raised and revealed to us that the post-cold war calm was not going to be forever; the pitiless crowbar of events was busy hacking away at the foundations of our perceived sense of security and entitlement. In the dust, rubble and confusion of the aftermath, we groped our way to each other, sobbing, disoriented and humiliated at the blow that had been struck. Then we started the squabbling.

This is the great tragedy of September 11: that Americans have seemingly grown suspicious and resentful of each other. We have devolved into a shouting horde a mob arguing amongst themselves instead of fighting the enemy. It’s a sorry spectacle.

Most incredible of all, there is not only significant disagreements as to how to fight the enemy, there are significant disagreements- even seven years later- as to who the enemy is. Conservatives think it’s a form of radical Islam that preaches terror. Liberals seem to think it’s George Bush and everything he stands for.

It is this particular form of diseased liberalism that has beaten me away from their fold, even as I try to remain open and sympathetic to their point of view. Most of my friends are quite to the left of me and I have no intention of writing them off or delivering unwelcome diatribes. They are kind, dear people, good neighbors, many brothers and sisters in Christ and I refuse to dehumanize them for mere politics. For the most part, they have returned the favor. That’s what makes America great.

The Great Anxiety

This politeness, while commendable in many ways, has at least one downside: the unsaid resentments are building to an intolerable level with no acceptable outlet available.Blogs and talk radio tend to only increase the anxiety, not assuage it.

A therapist once told me that anger turned inward creates depression and anxiety. That’s whats happening to our great country now. The rancor and paranoia, the realization that economic growth is not a given, the horror of war, the dread and resentment of having to defend our freedoms- all in a post-modern age- all of this has been a psychological minefield for America and the damage has been taking it’s toll for several years now in our national discourse.

Our grandparents dealt with the Great Depression; our task is of a different kind. We must deal with the Great Anxiety.

The Great Anxiety is not just psychological; it also has philosophical roots and a basis in reality, all of which interact and feedback on each other resulting in paralysis, self-hatred and in extreme cases, dementia. It has a home on the Left and the Right, although certainly in my opinion the anxiousness and vitriol is most intense on the Left: that is, the Left blames the Right for it’s problems in a way not fully comparable to the way the Right blames the Left.

I know in particular this point would be disputed, so let me just state it this way: IMHO the Left continually distorts the position and temperament of those on the Right, and the Right, while by NO MEANS perfect, I believe is much more fair to the Left. In fact, the most effective tool is to simply let liberals go on at length at what they believe and why they believe it. So in that sense, I think conservatives – at least the ones I am interested in- have a far more nuanced view of their ideological opponents humanity and intentions, even as the skewer and mock some of their philosophy and policies. Liberals really do want to increase the size and scope of government as the solution to a host of social problems. Conservatives really do want to decrease the size of government, not because they don’t care about many of those same social problems, but because they see freedom and self-reliance as the best way solve those problems.

My Rhetorical Gambit

I have striven to be clear and fair in what I write- which is really just for my self and a few friends- but I have found it is extremely hard to do so. Above all I have tried to be honest about how I feel and what I see happening around me. If I have been harsh, I feel it has only been in areas that have been harsh with me.

Also of great importance to me is to occasionally express my dismay and personal sadness at the vitriol expressed by seemingly normal people, myself included. I have longed for more unity, but even more I have desired simple understanding. But even that eludes as we can’t even agree on facts or the relative importance of them. Still more elusive is the attempt to get my liberal friends to talk about their philosophical underpinnings. Mostly, they just can’t. The emotions are too strong, the obfuscations too great.

I’m not so proud that I am afraid to admit that I want some respect from liberals. I’m not ashamed to say that I wish I had more of their approval. I’ll keep telling them that the differences between us cause me great anguish and sadness, even if they make fun of me and say I’m weak. I’m not. The sadness comes from seeing them soil themselves with their intellectual dishonesty and emotionalism. The sadness comes from seeing them sell out some of their own most cherished values in order to remain acceptable to the Democratic leadership, or some idea of “world citizenship”. Even more pathetic is the soul who says he is more wise and good than both parties and the Americans that support them. I’m not that wise or good. I need other people to help me understand my world.

I would like to share more philosophically with some of my friends and co-workers, but I don’t need it to be happy- at least not anymore. While some of them seem to hate people like in me in the abstract, most are still able to connect with me about other parts of life; and I am able to see them as fully human; flawed, magnificent humans made in God’s image worthy of respect and love.

In particular, I feel for their anxiety. Bush and the Rupuglicunts anguish them so. I may make fun occasionally, but seeing it up close does sometimes make me realize what a serious issue it is. I wish I could help somehow.

My anxiety, I am happy to say seven years after 9/11, is greatly on the wane. I wish it were so for liberals in my life. The spasms of anxiousness seem to be reaching a crescendo.

So to them I would say: don’t worry about the Republicans. Don’t worry about the conservative Christians, the neo-cons, the white people. There will be jousting at the ballot box and arguing on blogs but in the end we are all Americans and we have far more that binds us than divides us if you would only stop to talk and listen.

But Gardening and Excersise Are Better Than Blogging

I was never very political before 9/11; if I thought about political parties it was mostly in a “pox on both your houses” way. I was a NPR junkie, detecting no hint of bias. If Fox News was on in a room, I changed the channel or turned it off. I fancied myself as a liberal, and had moderate positions backing that claim; for instance I hated the Clinton impeachment. Still do. And I still don’t really care about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, World Net Daily, Michael Savage or Ann Coulter. I do like Instapundit, First Things, American Digest, Neo-Neocon, Tigerhawk, and Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club. Check out them or anyone else in “Favorite Bunch” in the sidebar. It’s a better conversation.

I was agnostic about the build up to the war. I experienced it mostly through NPR coverage. I was in the midst of several personal crises; notably my career was in the toilet and was getting ready to welcome my first child into the world in August of 2002. I had never heard of blogs, National Review, Weekly Standard, Hugh Hewitt or Mark Steyn.

When I changed my mind, I did it on my own. When I changed my mind I did it in the context of a cultural environment that heavily favors liberalism, although I had now idea just how intense the liberal point of view would be or become. Nearly all of my friends and co-workers are pretty far to the left. So it’s no wonder that I would seek out like-minded people online just so I didn’t feel like I was alone or demented. Because that’s exactly how many would want me to feel, even beyond my own insecurities.

It’s been a wild ride. Through it all, I’ve managed to learn how to be a Father, resuscitated a career, discovered gardening and exercise. My friends, neighbors and co-workers remain incorrigibly liberal, many to the extreme, but I’ve come to a tenuous acceptance of that fact and am resolved to continue to love them- yes love them- as I have always done. I just wish, seven years into this mess, it was easier to talk to them. It’s hard to be honest when the differences are so painful.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    September 11, 2008 9:35 pm

    “We have devolved into a shouting horde a mob arguing amongst themselves instead of fighting the enemy.” – I am afraid that the jingoistic right wing pundits, and the Bush “you are either with us, or you are against us” mentality has a lot to do with it. Misunderstanding our ‘go it alone’ foreign policy doesn’t help. True coalition and collaboration requires good foreign policy experience, which Bush never had or even an intellectual curiosity of. The fact that his admin and the right wing media left no room for dissent shows intellectual dishonesty and a manipulation of fear.

    I agree that the liberals have little understanding of the fundamentalists. Europe tolerates the radical side of Islam to a point of just laying down and taking it, and being politically correct. It is worrying to see some of the politicians of my own country (Great Britain), accept the intolerance of this backward side of this ‘middle age’ religion. Intolerance should never be accepted, even with our own intolerant factions (namely the religious right wing and others)

    “the Left blames the Right for it’s problems in a way not fully comparable to the way the Right blames the Left.”- Have you not read the great literary works of Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter, Mark Steyn etc? Even the much beloved Frank Pastore (christian radio talk show host), writes that “The left bewitches with its potions and elixirs, served daily in its strongholds of academe, Hollywood and old media. It vomits upon the morals, values and traditions we hold sacred: God, family and country”. Sounds like someone who values only half of this country. What kind of medieval thinker is this pious man?

    Of course the liberal left blame the Bush admin, Fox news etc. When the right champion tax-cuts for the wealthiest 1%. The irony is that the Fox pundits are some of the wealthiest people in this country who benefit from this tax cut.

    Personally, I am a moderate, who is voting Obama, because I don’t have a choice. I would have gone third party, but we are in desperate times. McCain doesn’t cut it, and if Palin takes over, I’m afraid that we are doomed. She’s too small minded, and frankly far less qualified for the top job than Obama is. She is not a bridge builder to other nations (forgive the pun).

    I don’t like the hard left, or the hard right. At the moment, the hard right is the true anti-freedom “crusader” (another word I can’t stand). So my energy is going towards getting to know them. They are not a pretty bunch.

    But in a land where true sacrifice from the American people doesn’t fly, because there would be a backlash. True sacrifice in this ‘war against terror’ should be reflected in higher taxes, and the draft. For the first time in any war in this country, we are deferring the bill to your child, my children and their children. We are borrowing extensively from other nations, along with our own lust for more oil. Our debt in this war will reach to over 3 trillion dollars, we have a financial crises. What else can I say to you about the failed policies of this administration and the right wing in general. It is time to clean out the house of this filth.

    By the way, Reason magazine is a great read as well, if you are interested in broadening your horizons a little further.

  2. September 12, 2008 9:49 pm

    David-
    Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to what I’ve written. It means a lot. This comment helps me understand more where you are coming from.

    You also make some very good points, and I appreciate the passion in you’re delivery. We should get together in person some time- occasionally me and a few others that comment have a drink and talk. It always feels a lot better than what happens here. I’ll respond further in the next post (well maybe… this comment is getting kinda long!)

    I was feeling bad like I had just casually dismissed you; but I have to say I think you seem quite dismissive of me too. I’d like to chalk it up to you coming into the middle of a conversation and not quite getting where I’m coming from. I know you to be a decent and good intentioned guy.

    I hope you -as well as my other liberal readers take to heart the last paragraph above, especially this:

    My friends, neighbors and co-workers remain incorrigibly liberal, many to the extreme, but I’ve come to a tenuous acceptance of that fact and am resolved to continue to love them- yes love them- as I have always done.

    I write for myself primarily. I like to get information to people who think differently than I do. Mostly the people who comment know me in some way.

    My friend Rob (see Monkey on My Back in the sidebar) and I attempted to have a long discussion debate regarding the war. It didn’t work out too well, though I feel we both gave it a good shot. So I’ve given up trying to respond in a too detailed way. It takes too much time and it doesn’t do much good. I would like to do so more though- but that’s the part that’s better in person. Much more genial, and it doesn’t take so damn long.

    I read Hit and Run occasionally and find the Libertarian outlook helpful in terms of economics especially. I link to a few liberal blogs, but I don’t read them much anymore.

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