09 September 2011

9/11 ... Ten Years After Pearl Harbor

We won't forget ... ten years or a thousand.
The Twin Towers coming down in such ignominious fashion has always left me embittered.  I will never forget --  We will never forget -- the shock to discover our national vulnerabilities revealed on the brightest of world stages and our collective cocksuredness mussed much in the same way a tall distinguished man in a handsome 3-piece feels and looks after he has tripped and tumbled in the public square, tearing his otherwise impeccable pinstripe suit, with cane and briefcase spilling about before him, scuffing hands, a knee, and perhaps even losing a tooth.  This is a raw moment of embarrassment and shock and pain.

But, America didn't stumble.  We were tripped, and by a schoolyard coward who couldn't or wouldn't walk up to us and take a shot.  No, there was no honor in this knock-down that we were handed ten years ago.  And, the subsequent geopolitical machinations, in all their ugliness and complications and import that we've engaged in since, have been hard on us in more ways than we can count. The thousands of lives lost and families forever impacted that fateful, perfectly clear day in New York and DC and Pennsylvania.   Hundreds of billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives of US service men and women lost and given to help this gentleman get back up, and to protect the others of us in the public square.  There's much honor there that needs to be recognized as well.

The pride is also there when we remember and recognize the first-responders and fellow-passengers who knew they would likely die and yet didn't hesitate to act.   They climbed staircases and walked into a burning Pentagon and carried injured men and women or they charged into a barricaded cockpit with nothing but a rebel yell knowing they would never make it out of those buildings or get off of that plane.

My children and I routinely waive at our local firehouse trucks from LA City station No. 66 as they drive here in South Central Los Angeles.  These men risk their lives for these same citizens in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.  We waive at our local LAPD as they drive our streets.  I thank the service men and women I see in the airports that I travel through when I'm hopping on some plane.  Not always, and not as much as I used to after 9/11 ... but more than I used to prior.

There was another cheap shot taken on America by Imperialistic Japan on that now infamous date of 12/7, known today as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  Only two generations later and most young Americans don't know that date.  There is no lingering animosity between our countries and cultures to aid in such a recollection.  It was a date that, as FDR said, would live in infamy.  My two boys know that date as their mother's birthday, not a deadly attack against our fleet in the Pacific.

Our countries today are both democracies with a supreme focus on the free market.  Japan is one of our closest allies, and not just in Asia.  Our kids rock the same asymmetrical haircuts.  They wear the same fashion, play the same video games, and listen to the same rock (usually) and jazz and classical music.

A scant ten years after 12/7, Japan was a nascent democracy and on its way to finding its place in the free markets of the world.  Two decades later theirs was a booming inchoate economic powerhouse readying itself to one day soon take on the US.  Now look at her.  Japan is absolutely one of the jewels of the G8, a consistently supreme economy in finance, manufacturing, technology and the list continues to grow and impress.

Compare ten years post 9/11 to ten years after December 7th, and the difference is both striking and stark.  There is no former nationalistic adversary, no country to point at as a worthy opponent.  We in the West can only look at a worldview that hates anything that reflects or embodies modernity or even promotes human rights.  It is a worldview that engenders fear and hatred against anyone or thing or system that puts women in schools or takes them out of a hijab.  It is a worldview that radicalizes young men who would ordinarily say peaceful prayers and lead productive lives.  It is a worldview that is stuck in the dark ages and can now only find pride in hating the West -- that has become their raison d'etre.

Each major religion has gone through some sort of reformation.  This worldview that I write about has not as of yet.  Perhaps with the "Arab spring" this might be possible.  But, it is ten years after 9/11 and our chances of having a cordial statecraft relationship in the Middle East is perhaps possible only because the U.S. brought order to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Gadaffi basically laid down in submission after we wiped the floor with his neighbors, and said "Don't attack me! I'm with you guys on this terrorist thing!  Oh, yeah, and I love Condi Rice!"

The Arab street and the movements in Syria and Egypt and elsewhere, owe much thanks to an American and Western policy of helping to rebuild after conflict.  Look to Europe and Germany and the Marshall Plan and to Japan and Korea and to any region where our footprint (sometimes a bit too heavy) has "veni, vidi, vici'd" its way to victory and then departed only to remain allied with the former enemy and their new and improved economy (but don't look at Vietnam -- Look away!  Look away!).  If we can help Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild to a new future that is in their own hands (and not the hands of a despot and his psychotic children), and if Saudi Arabia reform a bit like Jordan, and if we can help them both open up towards democratization, then perhaps we'd see a true Arab spring that would bloom like flowers in a desert oasis, and perhaps Syria and Libya and Lebanon will know what true freedom looks like.

As it says in Isiah 35:

"The desert will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy … water will gush forth in the desert and streams in the desert.  The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs."

If only.


Alexandra said...

some great thoughts. very succinctly written about the comparisons between these two similar events that haunt our history.

Karena said...

Excellent JG, very poignant, so many of us are praying that these kinds of horrors never happen again.

Art by Karena

{oc cottage} said...

Where pith is concerned, I am at a loss today. But you, kind sir, and your post, have made my day!


Jg. for FatScribe said...

alexandra -- glad to see you survived (in style) the hurricane scare of '11! thank you for the compliment.

ms. k! -- i join you in your prayer for protection on our country and citizenry.

oc cottage -- wow. don't oft get to make one's day! thx. i am now following you, btw.

Barbara said...

Well said, JG.
My fear is the "Arab Spring" will put more radicals in power. I pray I am wrong.

Karena said...

PS Jg, I think you will like my latest giveaway from Interieurs, do come over.


Art by Karena

Ruben Rivera said...

Thanks JG for this post. You are certainly right: in some ways there is no comparing Japan after WWII with the situation after 911. Japan was and is a very different culture from the Islamic world. Also, Japan had long before 12/7/41 sought to beat the West at its own capitalist-industrial game, and happily returned to doing so after the war. Perhaps above all, the "religion" of most Japanese is a combination of Shinto and Buddhism, and these are far removed from the "one way" religion that is Islam, or Christianity for that matter.

The only thing I'll add here is the great tragedy of 911 to Middle Eastern / Muslim peoples themselves, many millions of them who DO NOT subscribe to the extreme forms of their religion that lead and promote terrorism, any more than I identify or condone extreme and intolerant forms of Christianity that have led to many inhumane developments in history.

I personally know some Americans of the Muslim faith, and they have reason to hate 911 and subsequent acts of terrorism as much as anyone. For in addition to the attack going against the Islam they love, they have to deal with repercussions of guilt by association. And they lament the fact that remembrances of the dead (including and since 911) leave out the tens of thousands of ordinary Muslims lost in the "cross-fire."

Finally, I like the way you and your kids waive to firemen and cops as a way to acknowledge the good they do. Pretty cool that.

All the best to you pal.

Emm said...

Very good post! I don't know though. My speciality is more African warlords and despots but I get the idea that the Arab world is in for a lot more of the same misery, poverty and oppression before they start to see any real progress at all.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

barb -- yeah, i agree with you. this will be a major transition time for the middle east.

ruben -- excellent thoughts. thanks for taking the time to share them. i think that in the same way that japan had militarized their religion during this time period, so too the extremists are counting on their faith to radicalize the young. agreed that there are hundreds of millions of peaceful muslims around the world, it only takes a small percentage to hold an entire country hostage to a caliphate (pick any half-dozen around the world). as Jesus said, pray for the peace of jerusalem.

Emm -- thanks for your visit from the u.k. your perspective as a world citizen is greatly respected around here.

christian soldier said...

unlike Japan - Germany - et al- we in the US have battling this enemy since our founding-
Jefferson sent the new Navy -Marines (shores of Tripoli) to stop muslim pirates from taking hostages and demanding tribute- Madison finished the job-- but- the job will never be finished as long a a religion teaches that is alright to lie to further the cause of islam...

Dumbwit Tellher said...

No one can write like you do Jg, and left your readers with the perfect scripture. Those that did just what you described, they jumped in knowing the risks, joined the ranks of America's most selfless heroes of our history. Individuals who act with such heroism makes me think they are truly part of Gods army.

x Deb

Penelope said...

This is a great post…I didn't go through Pearl Harbor (obviously) but the aftermath was different in many ways…it seems to me that 9/11 is already being forgotten here in NYC…the way the politicians treated the victims, celebrated the 10 year anniversary, etc and what has happened since then….

I don't know, I just don't feel like anything was learned. Sometimes things feel worse. I see the rest of the world respecting it more.

Caleb S. Garcia said...

I loved every word. You are insightful and brilliant. This is a must read. Johnny G is amazing.

preppyplayer said...

You write it well. Just finished the book Unbroken and really didnt realize how much I did not know about WWII. I remember Pearl Harbor and the Baatan death March but was shocked when learning of the other massacres and atrocities inflicted by the Japanese.

We can't hate everybody.

Knowing how much people distrust anyone boarding an airplane who looks remotely Arab/Muslim, how anyone mideastern is looked at suspiciously, I wonder. I wonder how long it took for people who served in WWII or the people who loved them to finally view anyone Japanese without prejudice.

And vice versa. Will we ever or were we ever forgiven for dropping two devastating Bombs on Japan?

Interesting to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, JG! Very insightful and touching. A very meaningful one for 9/11. Can't say more, everything you wrote dwells in my thoughts, my heart..

Ruben Rivera said...

Hey JG, looks like you've taken some time off blogging too. Just want you know I always enjoy what you do.

Take care

christian soldier said...

let me know when you are back!

will be putting my books together soon- I know - I keep saying that - but- now is the time-right!!!

In New York Paris Tomorrow said...

yes and so thoughtfully and carefully written, gorgeous and succinct

if america could stop blowing tear gas and rubber bullets at its less fortunate, more angry citizens

america, where we should be able to protest safely

Divine Theatre said...

Whay a beautiful tribute, my friend.

Hoping you are well...