September 11, 2007

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to get, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
A time of love, and a time of hatred. A time of war, and a time of peace.
What hath man more of his labour?”

—Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

Six years ago today, the Twin Towers fell, and so, we are told, our world changed forever.  It is true that, for younger generations, September 11 is our “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”  But there is an important difference (and not simply that the repercussions of September 11 will last far longer than those of Kennedy’s death), and it is important to understand if we wish to avoid a future September 11.

Unlike the Kennedy assassination, September 11 was over 20 years in coming.  It had its origins in the “excellent idea” of Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to harness the forces of radical Islam to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  Osama bin Laden was born on those plains—not literally, of course, but spiritually.  And we gave birth to him.  He came of age during the Gulf War, when he saw American troops stationed on the sands of Saudi Arabia.

Yes, we brought down destruction and death on ourselves, through our hubris and through failing to recognize that, when we act, others may be watching, and the world keeps on turning, and our time to weep, and to mourn, and to rend will come.  “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”  Wrapped up in our own “power,” we weakened ourselves, and now we are paying the price.

One would hope that the collective wisdom of men would rise above that of any one man, but the history of the United States over the past quarter-century shows otherwise.  Wisdom, the Fathers of the Church tell us, has its roots in humility, not pride, and that may explain all.

Six years after September 11, with Iraq in chaos and the Middle East more unstable than ever, it’s clear that we haven’t learned our lesson.  As we rain down death and destruction on others—on people who had nothing to do with September 11—how many future Osama bin Ladens are we giving birth to?


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