Thursday, September 8, 2011


I was going to wait until this Sunday, September 11, the actual 10th anniversary of the attack, but as I see no one else is, I thought it might be better to weigh in now before we all weary of the uncountable retrospectives.

And weary we will.  To whom now but a very few does "Remember Pearl Harbor" still serve as a rallying cry?

If there is one lesson I pray we Americans "never forget" from the events of that terrible day ten years ago, it is that it is our birthright, our charge, and our enduring challenge to remain always and chiefly a self-reliant people.

My military career included a little over three years stationed in Great Britain.  From there, I routinely traveled throughout the European continent as well.  As I saw it then, among the many things that distinguished we Americans from our European allies, that made us exceptional, was that we were nowhere as inclined as they to demonstrate an almost reflexive deference to the state.  When confronted with some bureaucratically imposed regulatory nuisance of one sort or another, your average American was much more likely than your average European to say something like, "This is bull$#!+!" and then begin to look for some way around it, if not simply ignore it altogether.

But over time, and especially over the past 80 or so years since the New Deal, we have become, I'm afraid, more Europeanized, more dependent on the national government, and, as a consequence, more docile as a people.

To take just the case of responding to an aircraft highjacking, for example, the case that describes 9/11, we have been schooled by the state since the 1960s (remember "Take me to Havana"?) that if we were ever to find ourselves in such an unfortunate circumstance, that we must in the first instance exercise extreme patience, that we must await the arrival of the proper authorities, that we must let them handle it all, and that we must by no means resist or be tempted to take matters into our own hands. 

Almost immediately after we were sure that the planes that flew into the Twin Towers were the result of no accident, it was clear to anyone with eyes to see that the long lesson counseling patience and passivity in such a situation was not only wrong, it was deadly wrong.  Had the instincts of the passengers on board been those of self-reliance instead, none of what eventually transpired would have.  Sadly, this did become clear to the people of United Flight 93, but for them it was too late.

The chief lesson of 9/11, the lesson we must never forget, should not be limited to how one ought to respond to an aircraft highjacking, nor even how a nation ought to respond to the threat of international terrorism.  Rather, it must be that only a genuinely self-reliant people are truly free and, as important, truly secure in that freedom.  Anything, and I do mean anything, that serves to degrade that self-reliance is ultimately dangerous.


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