Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering 9/11

Everyone's got a story, as they say.

I was in my seventh month of residence in Brussels, still learning my way around the town and buffing up my French for daily use. I had become accustomed to the 'web schedule' of my European life, finding my favorite radio programs and so forth were now on in the middle of the evening, and I would often abandon the spotty Belgian TV schedule in favor of better evening entertainment online.

So after a round of golf that morning, afternoon saw me settled into my computer chair and logged on to my day-trading website and the accompanying live forums. I was navigating to the Rush Limbaugh page when someone typed on a forum, "boy, that tower sure is burning hard". I asked what tower, and sat stunned by the words on the screen.

That's when I logged off of everything and raced back downstairs to switch on CNN International and the BBC, my two available 24 hour television cable news sites.

Just in time to see the second plane hit.

I called my wife's office and relayed the news, and then I became a sort of news source; I stayed on the phone so that I could tell her and her colleagues (French, Belgian, Dutch and others) what was being said and done, late afternoon Belgian time.

As for everyone, words fail to capture the sharpness and complexity and force of my emotions. But I was certain of one thing; whenever we allow ourselves to forget how EVIL human beings can be, we can always count on some of them to step up and remind us.

Radical Islam is little different than any fanatical ideology down through all the ages of mankind. Even the great Roman Empire had a touch of this fanaticism. It was taught and encouraged on all levels, the feeling that whatever you do for the good of Rome is the right thing, no matter how 'bad' it might seem in terms of basic human principles.

Stalin mastered it, of course. In his state, the 'new Soviet man' ignored God and the great human traditions and simply acted 'for the good of the State'. Even if the 'state' completely changed its view, and you were told tomorrow to do the opposite of what you did today, it would be settled by the words, 'it's for the good of the state'. Children were taught to notify the state if their parents were engaged in subversion, i.e. if they had a Bible beneath their bed. Conscience? Fuggitaboudit. Just do what you know your neighbourhood secret policeman would want you to do.

Radical Islam on the surface seems to be different, in that the previous 'statists' were elevating the state at the expense of religion, were silencing and oppressing religious activity. But in the end it is actions which define us all. Radical Islam today says 'God is so far above us, He doesn't even admit to the need for rationality. He can contradict Himself and still be right, just because He is God. We cannot understand Him. Just do what the Imam says."

It is unthinking obeissance, the disengaging of the mind from one's actions. And it is the hallmark of all fanatical ideologies, either irreligious or super-religious. The two come together as one, somewhere out there beyond the lunatic fringe.

Leftists say they are afraid of Christians in government on the grounds that we MIGHT do something like that, might insist on blind obedience. Yet they align themselves politically with a religious group who already DOES that, MUCH worse than any Christian would dream, and their alignment is for the express and stated purpose of limiting the power of Christians in the government we already have.

We are exhorted by St. Paul to compare words with deeds, by Christ to know trees by their fruit, in other words to DISCERN for ourselves using our own faculties whether someone is good or bad, right or wrong. Radical Islam, like Stalin's Soviet Union, does not look kindly upon discerners or questioners from without or within. A personal moral crisis is something a radical Islamist needs to keep to himself, if he wants to keep his head to himself as well.

That day I thought to myself, 'it is the beginning of the end of the world'. I expected endless explosions, an endless chain of cities and stories and horrors. I expected hundreds of thousands dead all over the world. I believed 50,000 had died in the towers.

Later, I was stunned to find that the murderers had in the end accomplished so LITTLE. A mighty sucker-punch, as the song goes, but they had been working on crashing planes by the dozens for many years before that (remember Bojinka in 1995?) and been unable to pull off such a day. And don't forget what it means when they use airplanes as weapons-- it means they don't have anything better.

And surely, in the intervening years, their ability to do such things is even more degraded. More people are looking out for them, security is harder, passengers will surely fight next time, and in all this time I am aware of almost nobody who is 'western in appearance' who has joined the jihad and is ready to sacrifice himself for Allah. There was an Australian, David Hicks, but he is now some sort of celebrity speaker and unlikely to be strapping on the Semtex anytime soon.

A strange and unforgettable day, was 9/11-- in spite of the fact that our media has done their level best to make us forget it. The most important day in the history of the world over the past 20 years is utterly unavailable on video or in photographs, in spite of enormous demand. The media has simply flushed it down the memory hole, with the lame excuse that we aren't ready.

As if they are the guardians of my delicate sensibilities! How many front page photos and lead-item TV videos would they NOT be showing if they were actually worried about upsetting us!?!?!

You'll be pleased to know that, in the days immediately following 9/11, many of my French neighbours in Brussels went to special lengths to offer their condolences to Americans they knew, and my mailbox often contained thoughtful notes and cards. I was stopped in the street for this as well, and they even made efforts to speak English with me (not an everyday occurrence with French speakers, for reasons of pride and whatnot).

It didn't last long, of course. But for a few days, as Blacques Jacques Chiraques said, "we are all Americans".

No comments: