September 11, 2009
Most Americans remembered today as the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, typically an occasion for mourning or perhaps expressing outrage at the mass murderers who perpetrated the acts of terrorism. What is often lacking in the memorial ceremonies, however, is the idea of taking some kind of action to show national unity and resolve. For various political reasons, that urgest task is extremely difficult to carry out right now.
In today's News Leader, Dr. Gordon Bowen wrote that praying and flying the flag are not enough, and that the best way to remember 9/11 and those who died is by making sure that such an attack never happens again. He believes that firm resolve in the President is absolutely essential for us to remain free and secure from terrorist threats. He notes, hoewver, that the despite repeated overtures by the Obama administration, our foreign policy objectives in the Middle East are largely unmet. For example, three out four Egyptians (whose government is allied to us) cheer whenever Americans are killed by terrorists. Obama has not been able to get other countries to like us, or even respect us, in some cases. Bowen criticizes Obama's "hollow policy of mere word play."
A prime example of such "word play" as a symptom of leadership weakness is the official change in phraseology to refer to the conflicts in the Middle East. As Al Kamen noted at washingtonpost.com last March, The Obama administration dropped the Bush administration's term "Global War on Terrorism," and has taken to calling it the "Overseas Contingency Operation." What a dreadful, uninspiring, meaningless label that is! I have been skeptical of the "GWOT" terminology as well, preferring something that refers in a more precise way to the nature of our enemies. To many people, however, any such identification would alienate certain populations. It's quite a dilemma.
With our nation bitterly divided over health care and other issues, and with our economy remaining in the doldrums, it is easy to lose heart and let fear of the future get the better of us. Indeed, instilling fear so as to paralyze their opponents' ability to resist is precisely the objective of terrorists. As American citizens, we are all obliged to take concrete steps toward supporting our local communities and nation. Giving to charities which are devoted to soldiers or terrorist victims are all positive deeds, but there are other things we can do, and not just on this particular anniversary. I donated blood to the Red Cross, which held a special blood drive here in Staunton today. It was just a small "drop in the bucket" (well, a pint, actually), but was nonetheless a tangible, significant contribution to making someone else's life better -- and therefore making our nation just a teeny bit stronger. I hope and pray that, in the months and years to come, Americans take more time to serve their communities and nation in some genuinely helpful fashion, and perhaps a little less time to ostentatious gestures of patriotism.