Thursday, October 26, 2006

We Were Never United

[The following article first appeared in the Roanoke Times on September 21, 2006]

Post-9/11 Unity Was Shattered Early
By Jerry Fuhrman

Sept. 10. A significant date in history in a way, the day many of us recognize now as one of innocence, when we were still able to see ourselves living in an insulated cosmos, a Bill Clinton world of make-believe in which those depraved Islamist souls who want us all slaughtered were still skulking in distant and isolated regions of the planet, gangsters -- seemingly -- who deserved only the occasional cruise missile and a word or two of disapprobation from our State Department. Sept. 10. The day before Clinton's fanciful world of illusion came crashing down.

It was on that same date, five years later, that columnist Frank Rich, writing in The New York Times, asked the following important question: "Whatever happened to the America of 9/12?" The first sentence in his thought-provoking article is most telling: "The destruction of post-9/11 unity, both in this nation and in the world, is as much a cause for mourning on the fifth anniversary as the attack itself."

In response to Rich's question, Fox News commentator Fred Barnes said, more out of indignation than thoughtfulness probably, that we, as a nation, have never in fact been united since 9/11, that the left in this country has been in opposition to our every move since that very day.

He has a point. But Barnes is wrong. It's fair to say, as Rich implies, that unity in this country did exist on 9/12/01 and that it was subsequently, rapidly, predictably destroyed. By Frank Rich's pals.

Just as significant as Rich's use of the word "unity" is his decision to tie it to the occasion of our mourning. For a time after 9/11, this nation truly was united -- in grief. Initially it was more shock than grief, followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of national sorrow. There was even a brief period of international bereavement, as expressed in Jean-Marie Colombani's famous Le Monde headline of Sept. 12, 2001, "We Are All Americans."

It is just as significant that Frank Rich is still in mourning five years after the tragic murder of innocents in New York City, Arlington and in a cornfield in Pennsylvania. For most Americans, feelings of grief were replaced with thoughts of revenge. Self-preservation. Our children and grandchildren. Defense of the homeland. Resolve.

We declared war. And we left the Frank Riches of the world in the graveyard.

The signs of disunity became apparent early on. While the fires still burned -- literally. Little more than a week after that fateful day, leftist columnist and New York City resident Katha Pollitt wrote in The Nation, "My daughter ... thinks we should fly an American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war."

A week later, another rabid leftist, Susan Sontag, wrote in The New Yorker, "The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy."

Frank Rich might take note: Susan Sontag, presumably one of his Upper West Side cocktail party pals at the time, had only scorn for America's unity.

Want to know what happened to that unity of 9/12, Frank? Talk to your friends and neighbors.

The rest of us remember that those cries for disunity began before we fired a shot in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. Before President Bush declared war on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Before Saddam Hussein was driven into a rat hole. Before we were able to recover the bodies of our 343 heroic firemen and 2,404 other innocent men, women and children.

At the same time that tens of thousands of America's best and brightest young men and women enlisted in the fight against those who seek the destruction of our way of life, Frank Rich's ilk turned their heads in contempt.

Yes, we are disunited. So be it. We will win this war in spite of their worst efforts.