For 19 years, we all lived in the long, dark shadow of 9/11. Every time September 11 rolled around again, we engaged in ritual remembrance of the events of that day and reflected on the ways in which the world had changed in its aftermath. There was pre-9/11 and there was post-9/11.
If the immediate consequence of 9/11 was a feeling of strong national unity, its long-term effect was the opening up of a huge national divide. On one side were those who loved America, cherished its founding principles, and recognized the attacks on 9/11 as an assault on those principles by totalitarian ideologues. On the other side were those who reacted to 9/11 by deciding that America’s enemies must have a point and by buying the claim that America’s legacy is one not of freedom and equality but of prejudice and exploitation.
On 9/11, who would have imagined that Islam would soon be widely depicted as a religion not of totalitarian conquest but of innocent victimhood, and that Sharia apologists like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib would be congresswomen?
It started with George W. Bush’s whitewashing of Islam and his use of 9/11 as an excuse for Middle East nation-building. Barack Obama, who spoke loftily of “one America” as a candidate, but took every opportunity to undermine American unity and question American greatness as president, was far worse, singing Islam’s praises even as 9/11 was succeeded by one act of jihadist mass murder after another.
The roots of America’s division had been present long before 9/11, of course. When the 1960s ended, many of those who’d mounted the barricades found jobs in the news media and publishing, in Hollywood, in government, in mainline religious bodies, and in the academy. Accruing power over time in those institutions, they helped indoctrinate millions, including a young Barack Obama. Ultimately, with the blessing of the Obama White House, these brainwashed multitudes introduced radical politics into settings that had previously been immune to such toxins—the corporate boardrooms, the upper hierarchies of the police and military, and the higher levels of the FBI and other intelligence services.
The Radical Revision of Patriotism
The elections of 2016 brought America’s divisions to a head. While Hillary Clinton railed at flyover state “deplorables”—expressing more empathy for illegal aliens and Islamic terrorists than for hard-working, law-abiding, middle Americans who’d been economically decimated by globalism—Donald Trump consecrated himself to the service of those deplorables. Yes, from the beginning of his administration, he sought to be a president for all the people. But it was far too late.
Too many Americans had been conditioned to respond to America-first rhetoric with a reflexive, implacable contempt. From the moment Trump won, the Democratic Party treated his victory as illegitimate and—with the help of a mainstream media that, since 9/11, increasingly had become an instrument of left-wing propaganda—sought to bring him down by unlawful means. At totally unfounded impeachment hearings, House Democrats hit a new low for naked and mendacious partisanship.
This should not have come as a surprise. Over the course of a few years, leftist orthodoxy had grown more and more disconnected from fact, reason, logic, and common sense. The Democrats, who had called themselves the party of science, are now the opposite. Top party people who bought beachfront mansions also asserted that, without radical action on climate, sea levels would soon rise high enough to wipe those beaches out.
On sex, the new party line was that any number of genders exist, that an individual’s sexual identity is whatever that individual claims it to be, and prepubescent children have a right to sex-change surgery on demand. As if all this weren’t mad enough, leading Democrats supported the defunding of police, defended mob destruction of statutes, and redefined abortion to include live delivery followed by infanticide.
Moreover, after a half a century during which an America overly preoccupied with racial and ethnic identity had transformed into a country increasingly focused on the individual, Democrats, especially during the Obama years, had made a U-turn back to group labels and segregation, defining people as good or bad, villain or victim, oppressor or oppressed.
The 2020 Explosion
And then came 2020. In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic lockdown, America exploded. In response to a random incident in Minneapolis involving a wayward cop and a career criminal, neither of whom had anyone ever heard of, left-wing extremists rioted in major cities, committing acts of arson, vandalism, and even murder. While Democratic mayors and governors refused to send in police, the media insisted the violence wasn’t happening, drastically played down its scale and import, or blamed it on Trump.
Suddenly, 9/11 seemed almost quaint. Yes, those attacks had been horrific, but they were over by 10 a.m. This new nightmare appeared never to end. On 9/11, America had been targeted by 19 foreign fanatics in the grip of a religious ideology that was, at that point, still largely alien to the United States; now, in 2020, America was under siege by thousands of its own, all driven by radical ideas that had spread to almost every classroom in the country.
The rioters are young. Most were small children when those planes struck the Twin Towers. That atrocity—an assault on core American principles—should have inspired an enduring rededication to those principles; children who grew up in its shadow should have been raised to treasure everything that the jihadists despised.
But the political, cultural, and educational leaders—and, not least, the parents—who should have seized that moment, bungled it royally. Too many privileged young Americans learned not to be grateful for their privilege but to take it for granted; instead of being taught respect, responsibility, self-discipline, hard work, manners, courage, honor, delayed gratification, and simple decency, they were indulged, spoiled rotten, and showered with participation trophies.
Sneering TV propagandists like Jon Stewart, brainless online “influencers,” and teachers and professors armed with copies of Howard Zinn convinced them that multicultural wishy-washiness, radical cultural relativism, and outright hatred of America and the West were cool, that the world was defined by Western imperialist hegemony, and that American society was all about the subjugation of blacks, women, Muslims, and trans people by straight white males.
Earlier generations, after completing their educations, had sought to make careers, raise families, and pass onto their children the values of their forebears; all too many members of the post-9/11 generation, however, disdain traditional families and careers and hence seek to bring the whole thing down—to replace the tyrants’ power with their own.
The Collusion of Treasonous Perfidy and Media Duplicity
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Obama Administration’s effort to destroy Trump revealed a level of treasonous perfidy in the corridors of federal power that would’ve been unimaginable until recently. This perfidy was matched by unprecedented media duplicity. In record time, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and the broadcast network news divisions had all become fully integrated parts of a vast propaganda operation. Their message was simple and straightforward: Obama—in reality a mischievous mediocrity—was a golden idol; Trump, who despite massive opposition rolled up the most impressive record of any president’s first term, was the embodiment of evil.
Trump, the most transparent president in history, regularly was depicted in a way that was utterly at odds with reality. He had moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but he was anti-Semitic; he reformed anti-black crime laws and brought black employment to record lows, but he was racist; he appointed more gay people to positions of responsibility than any of his predecessors and had supported same-sex marriage long before Obama (or the Clintons), but he was a homophobe.
Certain lies, though disproven, were ritually hurled at him by Democrats and media. He had called white supremacists in Charlottesville “good people”; he had mocked a journalist’s disability; he had suggested bleach as a cure for the COVID-19 virus; he had removed mailboxes around the U.S. to prevent voting by mail; he had called dead soldiers “losers.” The ease with which leftists repeated these increasingly ridiculous and reprehensible lies was shocking unless you were aware that indifference to truth lies at the very heart of the postmodern sensibility.
Can We Recover Patriotic Unity?
At some point during the madness of 2020, one began to find oneself thinking of the fall of Rome and the French and Russian revolutions.
At first one brushes away these thoughts; after a time, they seem unavoidable. How quickly life in America during the coronavirus lockdown and the Antifa and Black Lives Matter violence morphed into a new normal; how quickly life in 2019 and before came to seem a distant memory. And how much more removed we feel now from 9/11, which for one brief moment seemed to bring all Americans together in love of country.
Can we ever recover that patriotic unity? Or has 2020 set us on a path to utter disintegration?