The Shock and Somber Wake

All of us seem to be left with an emptiness unlike any we have ever experienced in the aftermath of the events of September 11.  It consists of a mixture of deep sadness for those who died, the shock that we were so vulnerable to attacks on such a large scale, the frustration of not knowing quite who the enemy is (beyond bin Laden), and the uncertainty about the future.  And now, daily reports of deadly anthrax “attacks” have become commonplace.

More frustrating than not being able to identify the enemy is not knowing what the issues are.  If we were to sit across a negotiating table from those responsible for the attacks and ask what it is they are seeking, they are unlikely to have any answers short of our culture’s total destruction.  And when we are dealing with people who in their fanaticism are willing to experience any sacrifice, including suicide, negotiations are rendered almost impossible.

Since the attack Americans have had a need to embrace, both to assure others of our support and to comfort ourselves in this time of mass confusion.  Perhaps the most apparent manifestation of this spirit is the ubiquitous display of our flag; whatever cynicism and blas’ feelings we may have had about patriotism seem to have evaporated in a moment.  With the stunning economy of the 1990’s we have become overly haughty regarding our prosperity and safety; the stark reality of the attacks has caused us to reconsider.  We are humbled and subdued.

We are also determined.  If we were ingenuous and complacent about our security before September 11th, we are demonstrating an enormous resolve to shore up our defenses to preserve those things most wholesome in our culture.  A moratorium has been declared on petty politics (blessedly), and the New Civility which has emerged seems to have permeated even the New York cab drivers’ community!

We are navigating in uncharted waters, and there are many people who are unhappy with the military response in Afghanistan.  (In what must be a historical first we are sending humanitarian supplies to the people we are bombing, as we are dropping the bombs!) We have befriended factions that may one day not be so friendly (as is the case with the Taliban whom we financed and armed through the 1980’s); on the other hand our very survival is at stake, and some sort of action is appropriate.  Threading properly through the options presents as great a challenge as this nation has ever faced.

– Ken Butera

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