Obituary: The Death of the Spirit of 9/12

Obituary:  The Death of the Spirit of 9/12

            The Spirit of 9/12 passed away on August 2, 2011, just shy of her tenth birthday.  Witnesses report she collapsed and died on Capitol Hill after choking on a toxic cloud of partisanship, to which she was known to have had a severe allergy. Known most recently as the face for a vast marketing campaign selling 9/12 Project merchandise, gold, survival bunkers and lapel pins, her early career was actually very different.

The Spirit of 9/12 was born, in fact, on September 11, 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the infamous terrorist attacks.  People of all walks of life spontaneously looked for ways to help one another:  at first by actually driving to the site of the attacks to help in the rescue efforts or to support the first responders, later by donating money, blood, volunteering for military service, or by coming together in prayer and mourning to comfort one another.  One of her most significant early acts is perhaps the best illustration of her true character and mission.  On September 14, 2001, Rev. Jerry Falwell appeared on that day’s broadcast of Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” and directly blamed feminists, atheists, gays, and all liberals for being complicit in the terrorist attacks that had killed thousands of Americans.  In this, he was not really saying anything new; he and millions of his followers had long claimed that anyone who disagreed with them on matters religious, moral or even merely political was an enemy both of God and of the United States.  This rhetoric was common in the political campaign that had led to the victory of George W. Bush, and in countless political campaigns before.  What was new was that this time, millions of people were shocked and outraged.  Within hours, Falwell apologized.  (This incident is so little remembered or regarded today, but is fully documented in news accounts of the time, such as: http://articles.cnn.com/2001-09-14/us/Falwell.apology_1_thomas-road-baptist-church-jerry-falwell-feminists?_s=PM:US.)

The Spirit of 9/12 was the spirit of e pluribus unum: “From Many, One.”  While the deeds of September 14 may have been the Spirit of 9/12’s most powerful, her words of September 20 were doubtless her most stirring.  As a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, she helped prepare his address to a joint session of Congress that witnessed to the unity not only of our nation, but of the civilized world.  As Bush said, “We’ve seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers — in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own. My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union — and it is strong.”  That speech went on further to recall the tears and the words of support coming to America from all around the world—-London, Berlin, Seoul, Cairo, from every continent.  The speech recalled how the blood of foreigners mingled with ours on 9/11, making us truly and painfully one.  It even reached out to the Afghan nation, reminding them that the U.S. was the single largest contributor of humanitarian aid before the attacks and assuring the nation that even now, if it joined the rest of the world in seeking to bring the murderers to justice, it would be welcomed in the world family.   The speech was a celebration and an exhortation, both of patriotic unity and international community.  (For a full transcript, see here: http://articles.cnn.com/2001-09-20/us/gen.bush.transcript_1_joint-session-national-anthem-citizens?_s=PM:US.)

However, shortly after what may have been the high point of her career, the Spirit of 9/12 became embroiled in a long trademark dispute with Culture War, Inc. which resented the use of “Patriotism” by any entity but its own subsidiaries:  Narcissism, Partisanship and Self-Righteousness.  While the Spirit inspired people to dedicate themselves self-sacrificially to their nation, Culture War Inc. told them that the best way to help their country was to buy things and take a tax cut.  While the Spirit inspired people to look for ways to understand others, promoting interfaith study groups and so on, Self-Righteousness sought to prove that “those people” were the cause of all the terrorism in the world. Timothy McVeigh, the Olympic Park Bomber, the KKK, and others were all forgotten in the rush to proclaim Islam the sole religion capable of producing monsters.  And while the Spirit of 9/12 inspired a patriotism that transcended party loyalties, Culture War Inc. relied on a monopoly of patriotism by only one political party.  It soon became clear that while the Spirit of 9/12 had a clearer original claim to patriotism (which is, by definition, love of one’s country, not love of party or even faith—those are separate things), Culture War Inc. had a much superior business model.  Eventually, the Spirit of 9/12 lost the struggle for access to the word  “patriotism” and with that she was ideologically bankrupted.  In the end, she was forced to work for the very group that had so consistently and vigorously opposed her, licensing her name to a merchandising campaign known as the “9/12 Project.”

Today, a spirit that was known for promoting self-sacrifice, unity, mutual understanding and the old idea of “E Pluribus Unum” is now known primarily for its association with the culture warriors.  In all, therefore, we have to admit that her legacy is mixed.  Partisanship, self-righteousness and national division are stronger now than they were before she began her campaign against them, and often the Spirit of 9/12 is cited in support of these very forces.  Her estate will continue to be administered by Culture War Inc. until an heir by familial connection is found.  No public memorial services are planned at this time.  In lieu of flowers or condolences, the Spirit of 9/12’s last wish was that well-wishers should devote themselves to their nation and to their neighbors.

           

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