9/11 + 8
This morning however, I was struck with an unexplained melancholy, a wistful inexplicable ache. For me there was something I couldn't put my finger on... Something more amiss than on previous 9/11's.
I resolved to find and wear my traditional "Remember 9/11" lapel pin as I pondered what was effecting me so oddly.
Then I sat transfixed as Barack Obama's commemorative address at the Pentagon issued from the television. His words meandered and danced artfully around issues and possible phrasings that might offend one group or another. The sentences seemed hours long, intricate and complex; a woven tapestry of platitudes and side steps with a very sparse smattering of periods.
It was then that the difference hit me square in the face. This is the first commemoration of 9/11 that has not been presided over by George W. Bush. It just felt odd.
I hope that all but the most partisan can lay down the criticisms for a moment and realize that in this moment eight years ago, President Bush became the most popular president in American history. When he surmounted that mound of rubble at ground zero and resolutely pronounced, "I hear you, the rest of the world hears you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon"; his approval rating skyrocketed to levels that no other president in history ever enjoyed. Sure, he did a lot of things that some disagree with. (He even did things that I disagree with!) But in this moment, eight years ago, he was the man that unified the resolve of this nation and voiced our collective sorrow and rage.
I have to admit to getting teary eyed at the realization. President Obama's lack-luster speech somehow lacked George's simple steely resolve. That is another thing that all but the most partisan must admit. You never had any doubt in your mind that when he spoke, he was speaking from his heart and truly meant what he said. He may not have followed through. He may not have been expressing sentiments that you shared, but GWB was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. There wasn't room for flowery rhetoric and relying on a teleprompter, like his successor might have saved him from more than a few fumbled words or phrases... but everyone knew the man believed in what he was saying. I miss that.
My wife tearfully interrupted my work preparations on several occasions this morning. I think she was feeling it too.
President Obama never mentioned the word terrorism in his speech, but renewed his commitment to pursue Al Quaeda. I remembered hearing the words of Master Sergeant Bernard, the father of the fallen hero Lance Corporal Joshua Bernand. He criticized the irrational R.o.E. (Rules of Engagement) the President had saddled his son with, and blamed them for his son's untimely demise. I have to wonder if the president is going to combat Al Quaeda by embedding those same artfully crafted platitudes, intended to offend no one into the rules of engagement thus tying the hands of our valiant troops abroad.
In the end, many things have remained unchanged since Obama took the oval office. P.O.W.'s are still housed at Guantanamo Bay. Al Quaeda still lurks in the seedy underbelly of the trash heaps and dung piles of third world shit holes, plotting acts of atrocity. Our troops are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some things however have changed and drastically so... All those protesters that once feverishly hounded the president for housing P.O.W.'s at Guantanamo and having our troops in Iraq & Afghanistan... They've fallen largely silent. The rules of engagement that recognized the priceless value of the lives of our troops and the inherent right to defend one's self when fired upon... gone in a vaporous spray hero's blood.
As I made my way into the door at work, I resigned myself to the thought that my tiny little lapel pin was probably again, going to be the only outward sign of recognition of the date that I'd see. Then, as I was speaking with a coworker however, I noticed a odd smattering of small battery operated candles dotting the dividers between the cubicles. There was one on the desk of D. (who's pretty much my right hand, utterly indispensable). So I asked her, "What's up with the candles?" "Well Duh!" She replied, "they're for 9/11!" That made my day... Well that and DI's comment to my post, "The Voice of Consent".