New York Times reporter Serge Schmemann wrote the lead story after that dark day when Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, killing 3,000 Americans. Today, 20 years later, Schmemann recalled how an English teacher assigned her class to use his article as a source to write….“found poetry?”
That wasn’t all. Schmemann used the poems as a lens from which he could lecture America’s phony “bravado” after the attacks — as represented by poems written by 15-year-old kids 20 years ago (click “expand”):
There is no need to elaborate here on the failures of those operations, which are being rehashed in detail these days alongside the desperate scenes from Afghanistan, or on the abiding shame of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, the torture-linked rendition program or the targeted killings by drones. The killing of Osama bin Laden himself in a raid in Pakistan in 2011 proved to be almost a footnote in the “war on terrorism” he provoked.
But 20 years ago there were few in power who opposed striking back, and striking hard. The poems of the Wenatchee eighth and ninth graders echoed much of the bravado emanating from Washington: “They meant to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they failed”; “Hunt down and punish / strike back / war footing.”
“I really think the way we responded at the time made sense,” one of my poets, Jaime Lawrence, told me, “but maybe it made for more harm than good.” Another, Michelle Merrill Crapo, remembers when she began to question the heroic narrative….
But with the years, she began to question the narrative of that day, and especially the notion that America was singled out because of its inherent goodness….
Saturday’s Times contained several stories that went out of their way to mar American honor rather than sticking to the human tragedy of the mass murder of innocent Americans.
Mark Landler’s front-page story on the 20th anniversary emphasized the forever nature of war: “A War Rages On In the Shadows.” Landler called the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq “twin calamities,” faulting America’s “ambitious, ill-fated project to remake fractured, tribal societies into American-style democracies.”
The abuses and excesses of war — from torture to remote-control killing by drone — have cost the United States moral authority around the world. Its occupying armies spawned a new generation of Qaeda franchises, while the black-clad fighters of the Islamic State swarmed into the vacuum left by departing American troops in Iraq….
Many liberals would question the idea that America ever really had any “moral authority” to lose.
Opinion writer and MSNBC contributor Michelle Goldberg took the liberal lamentation line suggesting the 9/11 attacks sent America into a debased, anti-democratic decline: “Bin Laden Didn’t Build the Trap We Fell Into”:
The attacks, and our response to them, catalyzed a period of decline that helped turn the United States into the debased, half-crazed fading power we are today. America launched a bad-faith global crusade to instill democracy in the Muslim world and ended up with our own democracy in tatters.
“The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country,” George W. Bush said in 2003. But this epoch of aggressive jingoism, ethnic profiling, escalating paranoia, torture, secret prisons, broken soldiers, dead civilians and dashed imperial dreams has left freedom in retreat both globally and here at home.
Of course, Goldberg flash-forwarded to 2021 for some modern-day GOP bashing: “Bush’s own political party has radicalized against democracy. Faith in human freedom has curdled into the petulant solipsism of the anti-vaxxers[.]”
In the same paper, Jonathan Abrams took on 9-11 inspired “jingoism” in professional sports in The headline deck passed off the liberal insult of patriotism “jingoism” as a factual description:
“Sport’s Post-9/11 Patriotism Seen as Unifier, and ‘Manipulation’ — The jingoism at sporting events that temporarily surged during the Gulf War and roared back after Sept. 11 now often drives wedges, but sports leagues want it to stay.”