9/11: 20 Years of Shattered Dreams

When the guns of August blared in 1914, they broke a century of belief in progress. The hopes and dreams of mankind shattered beneath their shells. They have not yet returned. For a brief moment, though, the world appeared to regain those dreams. The 1990s might well go down as the last American golden age.

Since the 90s, a generation has been born and come of age. They don’t remember or weren’t alive to experience how that decade felt. I feel sorry for them, because the feeling of optimism was unbounded. Of course, some of that was just the charm of being a kid at the time – but it was the best time to be a kid. Everybody was happy, from kids to adults.

This post-Cold War optimism helps to explain some of the ideas that have dominated American policymaking since. Fukuyama’s End of History thesis is probably the most compact feel for the pulse of the age. It was total nonsense, but at least it seemed real, just like the belief in progress seemed real in the 19th century.

Poor decisions from irresponsible leaders throughout the 90s and beyond ensured that it couldn’t last, however, and the fever dream shattered on 9/11. As far as the grand stage of history is concerned, 9/11 was a blip. China’s entry into the WTO two months later proved of much more importance to the course of world events.

Yet, the psychology of 9/11 extended far more than its physical effects. America was not invulnerable after all. Even in the midst of our golden decade, a foreign enemy had planned an attack which would hit the American homeland for the first time since the War of 1812. It proved a stunning development.

We came, in the course of a little over an hour, to realize that our vacation from history was only that. It was too hard to process and it certainly led to bad decisions. We still haven’t fully reckoned with it. How else do you explain the silly attempts to turn Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria into Western-style liberal democracies, in the face of thousands of years of contrary history? It stemmed from the belief that if only they could be like us, we would be safe.

9/11 20 years later

Me on 9/11, 20 Years Ago

Since it’s one of those days that anyone who can remember where he was, does, I might as well tell you my story.

I was in middle school at the time. My first class of the day was gym, so we got to go out into the yard for exercise. All well and good, because the weather was infamously gorgeous. There was not a cloud in the sky. Humidity was low. It was about 72 degrees. For those last few minutes, the world was at peace.

I still pass by the yard a lot. It’s still in my neighborhood. I remember the exact spot I stood in when I saw a plane. It was about midway down the block, across the street from a veterinary which is still there. The plane flew low and in the direction of the World Trade Center. I’ll never know if it was one of the planes, but about 10-15 minutes later, the class was abruptly halted. We were called into the auditorium. There, we learned the story, though I don’t think any of us truly processed it. We all just returned to the classrooms, waiting to get picked up by our parents. The school day had ended.

Surprisingly, my uncle was there when I my brother and I got picked up by our mom. A proud union electrician, he had a job a few blocks away that morning, and saw the second plane hit the South Tower. A couple of weeks before, he said, he actually worked in the towers. That made the moment realer, because he certainly dodged a bullet. He had walked all the way up to us from there, since all the mass transit was down.

Then I got home and saw all the footage. I still didn’t really know what to think. I was at an age where I could comprehend and understand perfectly, but not think strategically.

9/11 20 Years Later – A Mission Statement

For the kids of the 90s, who grew up happy but ultimately got screwed by their elders, 9/11 should serve as a perpetual reminder, since we all remember it anyway. We grew up in a unique time, a perfect storm of happiness. But that time couldn’t last. The vacation from history is over. The world is not all about you. There is more to life than how many things you can buy.

We do not live in an end of history, but a world of civilizations. The world at large is anarchical, with competition for supremacy. As we begin to take positions of leadership, we must remember our obligations to ensure the survival and flourishing of our civilization, and the preservation of our liberties.

It’s a cliche, but some of Ronald Reagan’s most famous words were that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. After 9/11, we heard (the dubious claim) that the terrorists “attacked us for our freedom,” with President Bush saying “freedom would be defended.”

Yet, 20 years later, our liberties are in far greater danger than after 9/11, even with its expansion of the homeland security state. The combination of woke capital (with its attendant “cancel culture”), the burgeoning covid-based biomedical fascist regime, and the Chinese Communist Party (with its influence on the West, including with covid) represent a much more formidable threat than any terrorist group ever did.

But we don’t see the same urgency. This is understandable to a point, because there has not yet been one horrifically shocking, visual, visceral incident. That doesn’t mean it is excusable. As we 90s kids come to power in the next decade, we must remember Cicero’s admonition of the duties of citizens in a republic.

And as always, we should follow the example of Theodore Roosevelt, the most relevant man for the times. We must have a new preparedness movement.

Preparedness means discipline; and in a democracy it is of the highest importance for us to discipline ourselves; and in so doing we prepare ourselves, not merely to defend our own rights against alien foes, but to encourage the habits of orderly liberty and disciplined efficiency, which will enable us to solve our own difficult industrial and social problems.

As our Boomer parents failed so badly at leadership, it is our responsibility to take up the task, and clean up their mess. We should consider 9/11 as the mission statement of our generation, the prelude to all the rest of the problems we would inherit. The 90s made for a fun childhood, but childhood is now over. We must end the Long Humiliation, restore America as a united, self-confident Western nation-state, and defeat the Chinese Communist Party’s bid for global hegemony.

We should view this task of rebuilding our patrimony and passing it on as our historically, if not divinely, sanctioned mission, and our destiny.

9/11 was the moment this mission was revealed to us, but we were as yet too young to take up the task. That time has now come, and it is far more urgent than it was on 9/11. Far more urgent. The time has now come to set out and join our respective squadrons. That is where the glory lies.

Do not let anything distract you from this mission. Your Bitcoin will not save you. Your nootropics won’t help you. Even a well-trained and prepared body can only go so far. Virtue, and virtue alone, is the bedrock of this task. Without that, nothing else matters.

As Diomedes and Odysseus did, let us give our praise to Athena, and embrace the mission, so that we may conquer this mighty foe before us.

Lives of the Luminaries will help you to mold the virtue and character to do that.

And just for fun, Giga Slave (because the incantation matches the pulse of the time)!

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