December 14, 2017

iMonk Classic: Michael Spencer’s Early Response to 9/11

UPDATE: We have had some good lively discussion so far. But I would like to remind us that the point of this post is NOT so much to analyze what Michael thought in the days following 9/11, but rather to use his thoughts as a prompt to help us remember what WE thought and felt. Whether you agree with what he said back then or take an entirely different point of view, I’d like to know how YOU processed the meaning and significance of 9/11 and how it compared to what Michael expresses here.

• • •

NOTE from CM: When Michael Spencer first started blogging, he did so from a conservative political perspective. You can read these early essays by selecting “ARCHIVES” at the top of the page and then following the link to “Archives II.” This comes through clearly in this essay, written in the aftermath of 9/11.

As you will read, Michael interpreted 9/11 as our generation’s Pearl Harbor, awakening the U.S. to the fact that we have mortal enemies set on destroying us. He names some of them in the essay. He advocates that we take this seriously and put our lives on a war-time footing immediately.

My point in running this essay today is to give us a glimpse of one FIRST REACTION to the terror attacks. Read Michael’s words and then think back about your own early thoughts and feelings about what was happening and what we should do about it.

As much as possible, try to go back ten years to those weeks and months after 9/11. What should the U.S. do in the wake of this audacious attack? What changes in our lives should American citizens at home and abroad expect?

Feel free to venture into the realm of the course our nation actually took, but try to do so from the perspective of how that was either in or out of harmony with the course you thought we should take in those early days, while the smoke was clearing.

• • •

THE END OF INNOCENCE
by Michael Spencer

“But this is the end…
This is the end of the innocence”

I doubt if any semi-intelligent social observer would ever get away with calling our nation innocent. With drive-by shootings, explicit rap lyrics, teen pregnancy, Columbine, Monicagate, sex education, internet pornography, divorce, Marilyn Manson, Oklahoma City, R-rated movies and the rest of our cultural decline in constant rotation, America hardly seems to qualify as innocent. Yet, in ways that have suddenly become important, our country is awakening from a long innocent dream to a stark and frightening nightmare.

Americans have not had a war come to their own soil since the Civil War. That experience defined not only the generation that experienced battle and loss, but the consciousness of the nation right up till the present. The bombing in Oklahoma City was the first disturbance of the national nap, but it soon became apparent that the nation was not under attack, but that a particularly audacious malcontent had vented his personal hatred of the country on a building of innocents. Though the media looked to make the militia movement as a potential enemy, it was impossible to take such speculations seriously.

This is different. We have people who hate us. They are capable, dedicated, well-funded (would our Saudi friends like to get anything off their chest?) and bold. While they have gathered strength attacking our embassies and military outside of this country, there is now no doubt that they intend to bring the battle directly to America, and to violate our imagined invincibility. They have been successful, and I expect we are a long way from seeing the last of it. It may be a truck bomb, crop dusters, more planes, biological agents or nuclear weapon, but the enemies of our nation have decided to bring the battle to us.

At first glance this seems absurd, but it is actually quite brilliant. I have coached chess for a few years, and, in general I would never recommend a bold attack into enemy territory. The circumstances where such an attack might be worthwhile are rare, but also quite simple: if your opponent has abdicated his defenses against such a bold attack, then strike quickly and with lethal force. While your opponent will surely respond, the loss of material and morale has tilted the game decidedly in your favor. To suddenly and mercilessly take the queen is usually to win the game, and at the least, it stuns your opponent into a chaotic and unplanned defensive game. Bad move follows bad move, despair and anger take over, checkmate is unavoidable.

Bin Laden and company have made such a strike, and followed it up with touches of bio-terrorism designed to play upon the increasing fears of a nation robbed of its innocence and security. America is not prepared for a war of terror on its own soil. Liberal policies have gutted America’s sense of prudent defense against internal threats. We have simply been put to sleep by the lullabies of those who refused to consider the disastrous results of letting down our defenses against the unthinkable on our own shores. Now, suddenly shaken awake by these events, our groggy nation is stumbling about, unsure of what to do next. Our opponent may be rash and unstable, but he has us worried and fearful. This is not good.

What we must do is clear, but the political voices willing to say what must now be done are not going to be heard easily. We are attempting to hold on to the image of our innocence. It is a counter-productive fantasy. The innocence of this nation is over. We need leaders to tell us the truth. And it will sound something like this:

Afghanistan must be occupied, and a stable, pro-Western government installed. Saddam Hussein must be killed, and his opponents empowered with our help. Iran and Syria should shut up and get in line. The Saudi’s — I don’t even want to think about it. In short, these pro-terrorist states need to be our sandbox, and we need to kick all the bad boys out.

The debate on racial profiling is over. If you are middle eastern or look like it, you are probably going to be asked to step out of the line. Be cheerful, because if it’s your country too, then it’s for your own good. If it’s not your country, smile because you are our guest, and we can be nice or not. It’s your choice.

If you are in this country illegally, or on an expired visa, or on a student visa, work permit or other temporary residence, you better get out or have your act very together, because some people are going to leave and why not you?

Flying is not going to be easy. We need to check every marginally suspect person down to the embarrassing parts, arm the pilots, give stun guns to the attendants, security check the airport staff and search every bag going on and off a plane. Or something like that. If you can’t deal with that, go to a country without planes or stay home. This is a big deal, and its permanent not temporary.

Every flight needs to be accompanied by several people with weapons who really want to shoot bad people and don’t mind doing so on a moment’s notice. (And the airlines need to pay for this, not the government, so the price is going up.)

If you intend to drive a truck on the streets of America, you need to be a demonstrably sane person without any intentions of blowing something up. So I think some more serious licensing and monitoring are going to go on.

If you run a flight school, you have a new friend at the FBI. If you have a crop duster, turn in the keys.

Since we have never really considered what bio-terrorism is all about, it is no surprise we aren’t ready for it. We are going to have to talk to the kids, talk to the people who handle mail and talk to the general public so they will know the difference between salt and anthrax.

We need some vaccinations and some antidotes. A lot of them.

We need to tell people that its time to call the police when the neighbors are up to something suspicious. If that upsets anyone, sorry, but if the pizza guy sees something that looks like a bomb, he needs to know it’s important for him to forget the tip and call the police. If it turns out to be the water heater, all is forgiven. If it turns out to be a nuclear weapon, then we’ll all be glad, I’m sure.

Now this is important: Our children and young people need to be told, over and over, about the very bad, evil people who want to hurt them. We have told our kids that everything is OK, and that is a lie. Everything is not OK. Every culture is not equally good. In fact, some cultures ought to treated like a rabid dog. People who hate us, who hate Wal-Mart, Disney, cable tv, Wall Street, your house, your dog, your little brother and our nation- these people are trying to do terrible things to us. They must be stopped. Many of them must be killed, and that is the right thing to do when really bad people are trying to kill innocent people just out of hatred and jealousy. Our children need to be told that our country is great and good, that the people in police and fire and military uniforms are heroes, and they should grow up and become heroes by wearing a uniform or protecting us from bad people. Kids, our country is worth all this trouble, and anyone who questions should be pitied or egged.

I realize a number of liberals are quite sweaty at that last paragraph, but this is where we are. Our innocence is over, and if we try to protect our children or the flying public or the nation in general, we are going to see the beginning of a new dark ages. If you don’t believe me, take a course in world history and note the following — all the civilizations before us, at some point, fell apart and someone else took over. It can happen to us. Ask the Romans.

Comments

  1. I think Michael is right on several accounts shows where we went wrong on others. There are bad people who want to harm us and to brush over the fact that all the attackers were middle eastern muslims is to be naive and to bury our heads in the sand.

    Iraq was an overreaction.

    What is interesting is that I’m not sure most people in our country see our culture as something as saying. Since the 60’s our school children have been fed a consistent diet that our country was “flawed from the beginning” and not worth defending, that combined with the rise of muti-culturalism and the further splintering of our society into hyphenated Americans, the great ideals and shared culture that held us together for so long have almost vanished.

    • So which would you have us do instead, pretend that for much of America’s history, rights for anyone who wasn’t a property-owning white male were freely available, or pretend that it’s not a big deal that they weren’t? Pretend that we didn’t commit genocide against Native Americans, or pretend that that was a good thing? Pretend slavery didn’t exist, or pretend that it was okay “in context” because many slave owners treated their slaves “like family”

      For me one of my favorite things about America is the multiculturalism and what you call hyphenated Americans. I don’t think I would much like your ideal America.

      • Since the great waves of immigration, peaking in the mid 1800’s to the early 20th century we ‘ve had multiculturalism, particularly in the north (the south was more homogenous). It is what helped to keep America fresh and strong. But I also think for most, the mindset was different, – hold on to some sense of their traditions but assimulate into America to beome one nation, not a nation of separate tribes. To a large extent that is still happening today, but there are some that want to live here but remain separate. This becomes more problematic and could harken to situations like Bosnia if the trend continues.

        Yes, Marie, we went through a time of imperealism and expansion, and like European countries all over the world at the time, there were many things done that just would not be acceptable today. But then we are looking at those events through twenty first century eyes and not how things were seen at the time. It was not a purely American thing.

      • I still believe that we owe an apology for how we treated the Indians in the 1800’s. One thing that shocked me took place when I worked in college. I worked with an elderly American gentleman on Japanese descent in the 1990’s who spent World War II in an internment camp in California. That was shocking to hear…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Core Culture without Multi Culture gives you the New Soviet Man or Ozzie & Harriet 1950s.

        Multiculture without a Core Culture gives you Yugoslavia or Rwanda. Remember them?

        And all this Multiculturalism (gleefully forced down our throats by Permanent Temper Tantrums of the Sixties (TM)) has all but destroyed America’s Core Culture. Welcome to Yugoslavia.

        • hmmm, I think you have a curiously shallow understanding of what happened in Yugoslava but especially in Rwanda. Tutsis and Hutus shared the same culture, language, religion, neighborhoods, everything. The genocide was not about different cultures. At all. And if we’re going to talk about lessons from Yugoslavia, I’d say it was less about multiculturalism and more about the fall of a iron-fisted dictator. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little wary of the applications of that.

          And permanent temper tantrums of the sixties? Really? You’re just going to knock out the civil rights movement in all its forms like that? Good grief!

    • Austin…

      Many people have been fed stuff that is nationalisitic as well. George Washington cutting down a cherry tree? Lincoln never told a lie? (scrathes head…) But many people want to overlook much of our history. From the way slavery was legal, and voting was limited. Did you know that it wasn’t until Progressives reforms in the early 1900’s that allowed people to vote directly for their US Senators? Prior to that state legislatures voted Senators into power.

      Consider all the other acts that took place. From Jim Crow laws, to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Look at how race situations were handled from teh Tulsa race riot to racial distrubances across duirng the 1960s’. On and on it goes…so I would disagree. I think many people haven’t been fully taught some fo the stuff that has happened in the United States.

      • Eagle,

        I would be perfectly happy to have Senators elected by the States again. It makes no sense for the people to have representation twice in Congressman and Senators. The Senators were supposed to representatives of the States. That was how our founding fathers designed the whole thing to work and a reason we have much of the mess we have now is b/c we have not followed their wisdom.

        I also don’t see where universal sufferage has led us to have better statesmen, I don’t want to limit it on race or gender but a person should have a stake in society and either be landed or find a way to make sure that people who are mostly dependant on the govt are not allowed to vote and continue their demands for more dependance all in the name of the god of democracy. Do I really need to remind everyone that our founding fathers feared democracy.

        And can anyone really with honesty say things like the War on Poverty and the creation of the welfare state was anything but a travesty. Minority crime, illigitimacy rates sp?, and unemployment have all exploded. If we are going to apologize for anything it should be for the godless govt programs that destroyed the black community.

        • Huh? What? Eh?
          A stake in society? So, unless you own land, then you don’t have a stake in the decisions that affect the air you breathe, the streets you walk down, the schools your children will attend, the rights you have?

          Seriously?

          And good luck getting support for your “Stop soldiers voting” idea..

          • you don’t have to use land as the way to establish this but basically if you make no financial contribution to the govt then you can’t vote, not hard to establish or keep up with with todays technonlogy

  2. This is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. Did Michael ever recant this specifically? I honestly have a very hard time respecting someone who would right such racist and violent things on a public blog and then talk about grace and Jesus in the next post. It is not compatible.

    • Matt Purdum says:

      I don’t see anything “racist” here. What I see is someone genuinely concerned about the lives of his friends and family.

    • I am not here to defend nor interpret Michael, Marie, however I would urge caution in our use of language in reacting to this 10 years later. For example, “racist” could not be further from the truth when describing Michael. I’m more interested to hear what your immediate reaction was after 9/11. I’m sure we all felt and said things in the heat of the moment that changed with more perspective over time.

      • I am not saying that Michael as an individual was a racist throughout his life, I didn’t know the man. But this post is racist. I’m sorry, I’ve appreciate many of Michael’s words, but I don’t think simply putting this into the context of the aftermath of 9/11 is enough, these are extremely hateful and damaging words.

        I honestly don’t understand all of the rage and desire for vengence. Maybe it was because I was in college when it all happened so I was able to adjust my perspective much more quickly about what it means to live in America, but I never felt anything like any of this.

        I remember feeling distinctly afraid, like I could never feel safe again, but after a few hours of feeling that way I started thinking that people in other countries have had to deal with this kind of uncertainty and fear of violence for years and they still live their lives and experience relative happiness, so I’d probably be ok. I remember being surprised by news reports showing people in other countries expressing their sorrow for Americans, and not understanding why they cared so much, especially when Americans (myself included) most likely would never even think twice if the same thing happened to another country. Finally, I remember being asked to sign a petition against invading Iraq (still in early ’01) and thinking this guy was crazy, because why would we invade Iraq? They didn’t attack us. I was a bit more naive then.

        • And by “early 2001” I mean late 2001. For some reason whenever I talk about 9/11, I forget that there were more than 8 months of 2001 prior to that event.

        • Hi Marie,

          This embraces some of the conservative mindset with American pride, shock and emotion mixed in. After the attacks it was hard to separate out the events from a particular group of people. To this day I still feel similar about extremists WHO CHOOSE to take the next step of blowing up innocents for the sake of a cause. Notice I did not narrow that to any particular faith system.

          Michael was angry and frustrated and in a sense wanted vengance from what I read. Many of us did. It was hard to see so many die. Yes, intellectually we can ask “what of those who have been experiencing this all their lives”…. but emotionally we never had – it was a shocking revelation that we could be so vulnerable.

          So… as I said above, you are looking at Michael’s writings from the perspective of today. You need to put yourself into his shoes, his mindset, where a lot of us were at the moment after the tragedy occurred.

          My thoughts…

          • But I lived through that time just as Michael did, and I didn’t even come close to having emotions like that. It’s just something I don’t understand. Why in the world should it be difficult to separate the events from a particular group of people?

    • Following up on CM’s comment, one only needs to read the first sentence of CM’s intro: “When Michael Spencer first started blogging….

      I’ve read some of Michael’s older material, and it seems to me that the emphasis on grace developed well after this piece was written. So no, Michael didn’t “talk about grace and Jesus in the next post.”

      Like many of us, his views changed over the years. What we remember of him was mostly what we saw during his last few years, when not only his political views but his theology had changed from some of his earliest writings. I’ve read a couple other earlier pieces that were almost jarring in their dissonance with his later thoughts.

      • Good grief people, it’s not a rejection of the doctrine of grace to have enough common sense to realize that just b/c every muslim is not a suicide bomber that it might not be unwise as national policy to limit our immigration and visas to folks who do not adhere to a religion that calls for death to infidels. Geez.

    • I remember reading this back when Michael originally posted it.

      Life is a journey, and it is unfounded and irresponsible, at best, to suggest that someone was being racist or violent and to lose respect for that person over a single thing that was said at one point in that journey.

      I avidly followed Michael Spencer from around 2000 until his death. I appreciate his journey, partly because it, to a certain extent, mirrored my own. I read this back then and agreed with it. I can look back on it and see where I was wrong and what not. I really don’t know, but I would guess that Michael would have agreed that he was wrong at certain points.

      But still, this is a part of his journey. And part of the point of Internet Monk’s continuation is to look back on and appreciate Michael’s journey and the impact he made on so many people, both online and off.

  3. Matt Purdum says:

    In retrospect, it looks now like 9/11 was the culmination of Al-quaida’s war against us, rather than the beginning of it. They put all their efforts into 9/11, and they spent it there. I could be wrong but this is how it looks to me. Their influence in the Muslim world seems to have waned considerably, and our military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while often questionable in many ways, do seem to have achieved our stated goals. I felt pretty much the same way Michael did, but I feel differently now, and I’m sure he would, too.

  4. I still think that the best reaction to the September 11 attacks was by the Onion, of all places. I’m not really a huge fan of their work these days, but back then it was priceless. It took them two weeks to create the issue, but the issue was the first thing I remember reading that actually made me feel better about everything that had happened. Link here.

    I was quite a bit more radical and further to the left in my beliefs at the time than I am now, so please keep that in mind when reading what I thought at the time.

    My very first thought that was not shock and horror was something along the lines of “please let this not have been done by Muslims.” I remembered the bombing of the Sudanese medical factory after the attack on the USS Cole. Also, at the time, the worst terrorist act that had been previously perpetrated on American soil was the Oklahoma City bombing. This was orders of magnitude worse, but up until that day, I tended to think of foreign terrorists as scary but not terribly effective. The bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 had killed less than 10 people. The USS Cole bombing had killed 17 people and injured 31. All of these were tragedies, but the scale was low.

    When I learned Al Qeada was behind the attacks, I felt like I was watching the beginnings of a slow motion car crash. I knew we would go to war in Afghanistan. I was pretty sure that there would be other wars spilling out of this as well. I was sure that there would be massive suspicion and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims and that it would probably spill over onto my Indian friends who had similar skin color. I was worried about my friend Ravi, a Sikh, who by his religion does not cut his hair and thus wears it in a turban most of the time. It was a sign that said that the good days of the 90’s where the most we had to worry about were congressional scandals and militias in Montana (not to single out Montana, but I like the alliteration) were gone. I was sure that if the US did more than simply try to go in, get Bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda and leave, I was seeing my generation’s Vietnam.

    I was scared, not of the terrorists, as in the end, my chances of dying from a terrorist attack were much less than dying in a car accident or fall, but of the reaction their actions would create. Honestly, the sudden prevalence of flags everywhere disturbed me. I was worried that in the pursuit of under a hundred people to enact revenge for thousands of deaths, we would kill millions.

    I don’t know why, but I was sure that we wouldn’t be seeing an another attack like this for a while. I felt safe in Portland, were I was at the time. My city was too small to be a target. I’m not sure why I was convinced this wasn’t the beginning of a larger wave of attacks, except perhaps a belief that this sort of thing is so rare and seemed hard to do. This did not feel like the destruction of American invulnerability to me that it did to so many others. America is so large that I was sure that, baring a hijacking of the Russian nuclear missile system, we would come out of anything more or less intact. As a nation it had survived being split in half. If it could endure that, how could it be permanently harmed?

    This is looking back from ten years in the future, so I’m sure I’m compressing over a week’s worth of thought into a single period.

  5. CM rightly contextualized this for us. Especially when one is in a season of political conservatism, the acts of 9/11 would galvanize many things.

    Mortal fear of death & dying is one of the primary fruits of our lack of faith. Many things grow on this fruit that blemish our mission of love, including political & social activism based on this fear.

    Once we faithfully place our lives (and more to the point, deaths) into the hands of our maker, we can live life as free of fear as the birds & flowers of the fields, and our fruits can once again be sweet. This is an especially important takeaway from the acts & reactions of 9/11.

    Just my opinion.

    • My reaction at the time of course was one of rage. Whether righteous or simply borne of fear I do not know. I was ready to war against whoever it was that performed those acts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Better a reaction of rage than Existentalist Ennui (with or without Ironic Quip).

        • Why in the world would rage be better?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            It at least shows you’re human enough to have a reaction.

            Utter indifference (even when intellectualized with Existentialist Ennui) is inhuman. “Yeah. So What?”

  6. Reading this post makes me glad I didn’t read or even know of Michael Spencer at that time. I knew he was more conservative back then, and I knew he had changed a lot over the years, but this post is quite extreme. The level of paranoia in it is what sticks out to me. Although, I have to admit, I do remember feeling some of this fear when this happened. I don’t remember it being so extreme. But again, I don’t have a written record of all my thoughts and feelings from that time.

    On the other hand, reading this does make me hopeful. If the person who wrote this can go on and become the person who Michael Spencer was, than that makes me optimistic. There is a real chance for people to change.

    • Yes, the differences between early Michael and late Michael ( I only knew of him during the last 2 years or so of his life) can be jarring. I’ve read a couple of his other early pieces, and the contrast can be startling if you don’t know his history.

    • What led to the change in MS views? Can someone explain? Church experiences? Marriage? etc..

      • A growing dissatisfaction with shallowness he saw in the church, and a growing sense that the girl behind the counter at Dairy Queen had been right after all?

        I’ve never seen anything definitive, but I suspect it was simply that he was an intelligent, well-read man whose eyes were gradually opened to what was going on around him.

        Exposure to other cultures as a teacher probably helped, as he had to come up with explanations for things we just take for granted. And yes, I’m sure having his wife swim the Tiber certainly helped him along on his journey.

      • Well, he talks about it some in his book, but I think it’s kind of similar to what happens to a lot of people. If what we believe about the world turns out to be proven not true, we have two choices. We can choose to believe it depsite our experiences or we can revise our beliefs. It seems to me that Michael chose the latter. I also think that God has a way of softening some people, too. I very rarely meet a person who holds onto everything he believed 10 or 20 years ago as firmly now as he did then. I think just living life has way of humbling a person. That’s just my opinion.

  7. This is written as a non-American not living in America. I would like to offer a perspective and reflection that some might think is offensive. Please don’t. It is not meant to be.

    I sat horrified and sickened as the towers were hit and collapsed. I am a citizen of a country that has also been a terrorist target and bears the scars of this kind loss. I remember the initial reactions of family, friends and work mates and it was so different to that in this retrospective post. Collectively we stood in shock, disbelief and when we could finally talk, the conversation was about fear, not for America or for our future safety against the new mega-terrorism, but the impending tangle of wars that we knew would be coming and we knew our leaders would push us towards. There was a somber ‘God help us now’ resignation. Sadly our predictions came to pass and continue to do so.

    I never witnessed anything here that resembles this post, even after our own terrorism tragedies. There is a part of me that automatically says this is a very human response but there is a bigger part of me that wonders if this is a particular cultural response reflecting an identity that was suddenly found to be built of sand?

    I recognise the importance of this anniversary and the impact of 9/11 in America. I also hope that some time in the future the perspective turns outwards, even if only slightly.

    My deepest sympathies to all who have lost and suffer in the aftermath of the hate filled actions of a few on one day that still reverberate around our planet. No matter where they live or what their faith they profess.

    • Thanks, Melanie. It’s good for people of every nation to get an outside view, and I appreciate one expressed with restraint and clarity — and insight.

  8. Michael was just stating the obvious. Why all the fuss?

  9. Tom Huguenot says:

    This article has obviously to be replaced in the highly emotional context of the immediate post-9-11.

    This being said, emotion does not excuse everything. Michael’s ideas in his article are understandable. They are also wrong in many regards.

    • I am still hoping we will use Michael’s POV as a mirror to our own here. Did you feel as he did? Did you see this as the start of a war? Did your perception of “evil” and what it is capable of change? Did you have any particular feelings about Arab peoples or Muslims? Did this cause you to take a look at your faith and what it means in the light of public murder, national identity, war and peace issues?

      • Tom Huguenot says:

        OK, Mike, I’ll try.

        As a European engaged to an American, I had a somehow specific reaction to 9-11.

        Most people here were horrified by what happened in NY and Washington. Honestly, I must confess that the event only reinforced my negative stereotypes towards Muslims in general and Arabs in particular. I thought some ass-kicking needed to be done, and to be done well.
        I maintained this stance until the invasion of Iraq, which my country opposed. Actually, I initially supported the war (even though I never thought WMD were to be found there. God, forgive me).

        Then came the huge wave of French-bashing. Mind you, even US missionaries I had worked with for years were affected. Even though I had been a supporter of the war, I was not treated in a better way. I suddenly, and painfully realized something: it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a bunch of infuriated, flag-waving, Republican, US evangelicals.
        Obviously, I was not so much a brother in Christ anymore, but only a passport. And there, I said to myself: “well, but this is how they treat homosexuals too. And Arabs. And Liberals. And I was like that too sometimes”. Only difference, I had become a target this time

        My political and theological views were deeply affected. I left the Evangelical camp, and I have never regretted it. Somewher, somehow, at the intersection of theology and politics, one can say the believer I am today is a result of 9-11.

        • “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a bunch of infuriated, flag-waving, Republican, US evangelicals.”

          Yes it is, and honestly, their rhetoric is so similar to that of the Taliban. I’m not being hyperbolic here at all. I work in counter-terrorism and I swear, so much of what the Taliban writes you could not tell it apart from these angry evangelicals. Kind of like Michael’s swipe at sex ed above…what in the world was that about?

          • I don’t Marie, it could be that Michael was just a crazy enough “flag waving evangelical” to think that perhaps the govenment should not be telling middle school kids, 11, 12, 13 yr olds about sex, mutual masturbation, how to put on condoms, dental damn. I teach in schools so I know all of this is discussed if parents are not careful what curriculum is being used.

            I don’t know, maybe he was just radical enough to think that was not the governments job, but hey, if we just all line up like sheep and let the govt care for us from cradle to grave then no worries. Govt, can become our god.

  10. At that time I was freshly minted from living longterm in the Arab world, in Saudi Arabia. We had already had al Qaeda attacks in our city. In fact the Saudi government was looking for the brother of someone I worked with who may have been involved!

    One of the only bits of truth I understood in those days was that militant Islam would be a problem in this century. I mentioned it to my wife before we left Saudi in 2000. It was obvious from within the Arab world there was a shift to a more conservative Islam. The hatred was being fuelled by the west’s unquestioning support of Israel. I recall writing the Senator Joseph Biden from Saudi and telling him my observations. He never replied.

    When it happened, within an hour I knew it was dissatisfied Arabs. I was angry about it. I was fed up with the the violence I had seen in the countries around Arabia, and angry that they had exported it to America. At the same time, I understood why.

    When they went after Afghanistan, I thought they were wrong. I could not see why they would bomb a country that was dirt poor and had been in war for years. I was open about it in a right wing christian forum and angered some people. I now realise I was wrong on that number. Afghanistan had become a breeding ground for militants.

    When they went after Iraq I was really ticked off with Bush. I thought it was sheer opportunism. My office was under the flight path for jets that patrolled the no-fly zone in Iraq. Every day for years I heard them take off, saw them fly by. In all those years not one was ever shot down. And I knew from an Arab view point that it was humiliating for Sadaam. The loss of face he experienced would be a huge shame. I felt if he could have shot them down, he would have. No Arab would want to have his face daily wiped in the dirt.
    I was sure he was not a threat because he had been neutered like a dog. I was also sure that the State Department would know this. I was sure they would find no weapons.
    I wondered, why are they picking on Sadaam when so many of the hijackers were Saudis?

    My fear at the time (and still is) that too strong of a response on our part would alienate even moderate Arabs. As one Arab told me ‘we are not like you, we remember insults and problems our grandfathers had with those around them and will stay angry at those families that he had problems with’

    I had a bad experience at the time. I went to a hyper charismatic church of the Airport Vinyard stripe. On the Sunday they were bombing Baghdad someone was on stage ‘prophesying’ and went into a trance and kept on saying ‘Shock and Awe’ and on how God was going to do shock and awe. I am still sickened by it.

    • Tom Huguenot says:

      Thank you, Ken, for your point of view.
      Regarding your experience in this church, do you remember when Sarah Palin said that the war in Iraq was a task from God? But, after all, it’s true Bush tried to convince President Chirac and Chancelor Schroeder to go to war because the Rapture was somehow involved…

      • Instead of Iraq maybe we should have invaded Waisalia, Alaska!! 😯

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You guys ever thought Dubya Bush might be responsible for The Arab Spring?

        Before the Iraq War, there were only two types of government in the Middle East — Autocracies and Theocracies. The only two choices (with Iraq & Iran as type examples) were the Saddams or the Mullahs. Add the constant quagmire of Arab/Israeli Peace Plan after Peace Plan and you have The Status Quo, without end, Amen.

        Bush’s determination to charge into Iraq and topple Saddam broke that Status Quo. First by the barroom brawl method of picking the biggest toughest guy in the bar first and taking him down FAST, then by making some sort of attempt at a third alternative — a republic without a Saddam or an Ayatollah on top. A Third Alternative.

        And this Third Alternative simmered and grew into the Arab Spring in Tunisia, in Egypt, in the Libyan Civil War, and is starting to boil over in Syria.

        • Tom Huguenot says:

          I just kow Dubya Bush was responsible for lying to his people and to the world to justify an illegal invasion.

          And, also, Saddam was not the “biggest, toughest guy in the bar”. His country had been destroyed by 13 years of embargo!

          • …and the bombs and missles from 100,000 US planes.

            Did we have him surrounded or not? Hadn’t we imposed a no-fly zone? Why was he such a menace in ’03?

            Oh yeah. WMDs.

            [been trying really hard to stay out of these 9-11 posts…]

          • Ted,

            I’ve come to understand that “conservative” is a bad word at this blog.. I’m going back under the rock…

            But I will continue to pop in from time to time….

          • I know what you mean, Radagast. Once we get political there’s no end to it. I should join you under that rock until this blows over. 🙂

            But I’ve never thought it “conservative” to attack another country in that manner. As WWI and WWII began, the conservatives were the isolationists.

            To every thing there is a season, but we need to know when the seasons are right. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld got it wrong, led us wrong, and that wasn’t conservative.

          • Radagast, perspectives are a funny thing. I feel like I’m one of the only liberals who comment on this blog…

        • Yes HUG, because nothing good happens in the world without America behind it.

    • Kind of like me going to Campus Crusade on the evening of 9-11 and hearing people speculate about the rapture. I still feel sick by the fundementalist theology….

      • Tom Huguenot says:

        Just a question Eagle: did your CCC friends already believed in the Rapture before, or did they rely on a somewhat familiar scenario to somehow “make sense” of the tragedy?

        • The rapture was taught to me there. It was recommended that I read Hal Lindsay. Others that I knew believed in the rapature with the exception of a couple of Lutherans. When 9-11 happened I saw a couple of people giddy and one talking about the rapture. I interpreeted their action and excitement as being good in the sense that they were going to be raptured soon. One person even told me that the rapture would happened shortly. This was on the evening of Tuesdya September 11, 2001 when CCC met. Some evangelicals that I knew looked at natural disasters differently. While many people mourned some were almost “happy” because it ment that they would see Jesus soon. (From their perspective…)

          • Tom Huguenot says:

            This is weird, because I worked for Crusade in Paris and, if I remember correctly, we were not supposed to teach a specific view of the end-times…

          • One of my Old Testament professors told us (in an effort to explain how NOT to interpret the Bible) that in church the Sunday after President Kennedy was assassinated his pastor preached for more than an hour. The message? That Kennedy was the Anti-Christ, and gave “convincing” examples from the Bible. My prof was not only unimpressed then but clearly still annoyed 20 years later, that his wife’s Sunday roast had burnt.

          • Tom-

            There wasn’t group presentations but within the cutture it was talked about. Crusade attracts alot of Baptists and very conservative fundys.Just as Chi Alpha is for Assembly of God and Pentacostals. People talked about the rapture and the culture conveyed that this was orthodox Christian theology. Depending upon where I was…west coat or upper mdiwest it was a part of Crusade culture. In the west coast my Bible study group would watch the Left Behind movies and discuss it. In the upper midwest it was talked about, like it was on 9-11 with a few different people. In some cases people’s reactions were strange..while they may not have said, “I’m happy..” when they are almost smiling while others are in shock or grief that sends a mixed signal. My Crusade director when I asked him encouraged me to read Hal Lindsey as he was the author and fundy to go to.

            Its one of the problems with fundgelicals….

  11. Yes I felt like Michael did. This was an act of war. Whether we or the people killed in the attack were/are guilty is up to God to decide. I know we are all sinners and only saved by grace. At the time I wasn’t attending church or reading the Bible, now I do, but not because of 09/11/2001.

  12. Hadn’t read this before but it makes me glad that Michael clearly had changed quite a bit by the time I found this blog. I know there were other people who felt the same way, or at least similarly, right after the attack. That still doesn’t make it completely right. One of the challenges of following Christ is giving the way of Jesus a place of primacy even when our emotions and other allegiances threaten to overwhelm. It’s certainly a struggle that I’ve exeperienced, so I’m not pointing any fingers. I’m just glad that Michael apparently grew in this regard over the years. I think it has a lot to do with why he was a blessing and a gift to so many.

  13. I’m more liberal today than I was in the past. I have no problem with defending out country, citizens and Consitutiton. What bothers me about 9-11 is that I think in some cases we have done more harm to ourselves as a society than the terrorists could do. I worry that American liberties are being slowly eclipsed in the name of “secuirty” And it begs me to ask,…what do we do if we have stoped terrorism but created a police state in its place?

    While I am opposed to the Iraq war and view that as needless I still am a strong supporter of the Afghan war. We need to remember Al Qaeda trained in Afghanistan. The Taliban gave him refuge and protected him. The Taliban also refused to turn him over. We have every right to be in Afghanistan for our safety and protection. But I think Iraq sidetracked us from getting the mission done correctly. We could have built farms, hospitals, a food industry, etc.. We could have helped Afghans with their plight. Yes it would be rough…yes it would be hard. yes it might take 20 to 30 years… Just stop and look at the obstacles that we had in the United States. Women couldn’t vote until the 1920’s and blacks couldn’t vote until the 1960s and gays still have many rights repressed and need equal protection. Fortunately DADT is ending September 20.

    But there is so much we could have done in Afghanistan….that’s my point. I’m not a pacifist in many ways, but I’m not a war monger either.

  14. Jack Heron says:

    I think this demonstrates the great difficulties we face in trying to come up with responses to huge events so soon afterwards. We here all know that Michael was no bigot, no raging warmonger, no tubthumper. And yet an essay written by him soon afterwards almost seems to encapsulate much of what is worst in America – a desire to fight someone, anyone, to show who’s boss; belief in the importance of accepting any laws in the name of security; fear of foreigners.

    But as I say, we know he was better than this. And if someone much better than this can produce such an essay as a result of the intense emotions produced by that day, should we be surprised by the more violent reactions produced in others?

    • Tom Huguenot says:

      I think, somehow, that the 9-11 attacks have made us show the worst in us. I keep wondering if that’s not what the terrorists wanted…

      • Jack Heron says:

        It does seem a to me that America nowadays is a lot closer to what al-Qaeda and their like claim it is (violent, anti-Muslim, careless to innocent lives) than it was before the attacks.

        • Not to mention how we’re closer to a police state and probably done more hamr to ourself out of fear. We are our own worst enemy at times…

  15. I remember watching the plane hit the tower and feeling disbelief as my brain started to process the fact that “we” were under attack. I remember watching my husband’s face as he watched and simultaneously listened on the radio. He was dying from the exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam and losing his sight. But the expression on his face told me that he would have gone out the door to fight again if he were physically able. It was just as personal to him as if someone had come to our front door and tried to attack me. And as we went for subsequent medical visits to our local VA hospital I learned that many many vets from different wars would have done exactly the same thing. I remember going to church that evening and being asked to pray with those sitting around me in the pews. My boss was there and she just put her hands on the pew in front of her, put her head on her hands and began to weep. I thought that was the best prayer I had ever known of. I remember total strangers walking into the Christian Bookstore where I worked at the time asking where they could go to a service that evening. I remember my pastor saying, “Isn’t it amazing that tonight, the stores are closed but the churches are open.”

    But as the days and weeks went on and we began to learn more about the attackers and about Islam in general I began to feel part of something much larger. I felt as if our “world” here in the US was not as significant as we would like to feel. I read of the Muslim Crusades of thousands of years past and I felt that
    they seemed to be “reviving” so to speak. As if I was seeing history coming full circle. Amazed that these ancient people still hated and were as determined to conquer the world with Islamic Law as ever. I watched their commitment and willingness to die for what they believed and it made my “American Christianity” seem so ridiculous. With our t-shirts and bumper stickers and mega-luxury sanctuaries etc. And I realized that our world would never be the same.

  16. Some of these posts remind me of the self flagelation of some religeous sects. Does it make you feel good to dump on our country?

    • It shouldn’t make anyone feel good. The prophets never felt good about dumping on Israel.

    • Vern:

      I would say that a certain amount of introspection is good, if you do not have that you end up with the types of regimes like Sadaam, Hitler, Pol Pot and others had.

      I would say we do need to look at our hearts, and its too bad if you view that as ‘dumping on our country’. To me it is a sign that if anything, we are a bit more humane than those who become committed to acts of violence and never give it a second thought.

      I do hope you are not questioning peoples patriotism, that is not what this is about. This is about how we felt after a great atrocity was committed, and if part of that is we are disappointed in our own response or that of our country so be it.

      • Not patriotism, We are abit more humane than those who do not think likem we do, e.g. the great unwashed.

        • “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this [great unwashed].'”

          —Luke 18:11, with unauthorized paraphrase

        • did you really just say the great unwashed without a trace of irony?

        • When I was living in Arabia one night we were watching CNN. They were showing Madeleine Albright (secretary of state) on TV giving a talk at a large university hall or stadium. It was in a large crowd.

          In the middle of it a student started giving her a dressing down about foreign policy in the Middle East. CNN trained the camera on the student who publicly lambasted her. They cut back to her and I could see the anger on her face.

          I made a point of saying to my family, look at this, a society where an individual can call a leader to task in front of the whole world. You could never do that in the Middle East.

          This is a good thing!

  17. In this essay Michael makes two particularly prescient comments:

    “. . . it soon became apparent that the nation was not under attack, but that a particularly audacious malcontent had vented his personal hatred of the country on a building of innocents. “

    and later,

    “. . .[to] suddenly and mercilessly take the queen is usually to win the game, and at the least, it stuns your opponent into a chaotic and unplanned defensive game. Bad move follows bad move, despair and anger take over, checkmate is unavoidable.”

    Despite the tone of much of this week’s essays and comments there actually was not a time when all Americans were blissfully unified in how we were to respond to the highjackings and the resulting massive number of deaths of innocent people. From September 11 onward there have been wise voices warning, arguing, and cajoling against the idiotic response by the Bush administration – – now extended by the Obama administration; a response of bad move after bad move that leaves us a nation engaged in perpetual war. We cannot define what victory is or what it may even look like. We haven’t a clue how to disengage from the mess in which we are mired. But the killings must go on it seems, to make sure the continuing roll of our deaths are continually avenged. And so it goes.

    We were checkmated and lost the match when our leaders chose to interpret an immense heinous crime as an act of war. Somebody had to pay. Since wars are fought only between nation states, to justify our intent for war we selected the leaders of a regime that hated us, but did not attack us, as our target. The United States’ self-defined exceptionalism believes that the forces of history and the forces of truth apply only to others, not to us; and that only we escape the responsibilities and ramifications of our own wrongful behavior.

    Today we operate a war machine we refuse to pay for, partly because we cannot afford it. General and President Eisenhower predicted this decades ago. We spend 14 times the amount of money on defense as does the second most powerful military nation in the world. Yet our military industrial complex cries a vocal foul when there is even talk about funding reductions. In the end we will pay: a nation that lives by the sword will surely die from it. There are no exceptions.

    Amid the pain of dreadful personal, familial, and community loss, I fear this weekend’s commemoration of the September 11 events will provide little constructive national reflection to contemplate and learn from our mistakes.

  18. I drove to work without the radio on, and took the bus the rest of the way. Matt stabbed a finger at me in the hall and said “Its _your_ fault!” (I’m never quite sure when he is serious.) I turned on the radio in my office and heard about both towers and the uncertain stories about DC–and struggled to get any connection to bbc or nytimes.

    My first reaction was: “Oh no, it’s war.” My second thought was of my youngest son, only 8 at the time. I expected this to last (most wars do), and worried about him in harm’s way. My third thought was “Well, it has been a longer peaceful stretch than we had any right to expect.”

    9/11 did not make me more wary–a man ignited a pail of gasoline on a bus a few months before (I wasn’t aboard) and I was already well aware of the dangers of everyday life.

    Yes, I had a flurry of vicious anger too when I found out who was behind it, but sat on it and didn’t try to communicate it. That may just be temperament; the flip side of being slow to act (for good and bad).

  19. “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a bunch of infuriated, flag-waving, Republican, US evangelicals.” I completely agree.They scare me almost more than terrorists because, in reality, they are pretty much the same thing. Ten years after 9/11, I’m still shocked at how many people who swear they believe in a God who is the embodiment of love are more than willing to bomb entire populations of people out of existence. They really, truly believe that America has special stature with the Almighty and that He WANTS us to take over other cultures and people. It scares me enough to look elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment.

    • A-freakin-men

    • Western white males put a stop to slavery. It still occurs in muslim and African states. You think that muslims are better than we are., think again, they will slit your throats and praise Allah.. Evangelicals have no power to do anything to you.

      • Amen Vern, it’s about time somebody said the obvious, to paraphrase Lewis Grizzard, if you think the Arab world is just the same as here I’d move, the weather is warmer and the cost of living is cheap, delta is ready when you are, let me know how it goes

        • I most certainly do not think Muslims are any better, but I also most certainly do not believe that we in America have some God given mandate to take control of the world. I also do not believe that God is in favor of us bombing the middle east off the map. I once had a man who was studying for the Christian ministry tell me that if we kill the Muslims first, then we don’t have to worry about turning the other cheek as Jesus said because a dead Muslim won’t strike you in the first place. I somehow do not believe that is the message the Lord intended.

      • Vern, I’m unsure who here said “muslims were better than we are,” though I’m curious who you mean by “we.” Are American Muslims “we” or “them” or just the “unwashed”? On the slavery front, yes, white Western men ended slavery in the white Western world, though they had to kill plenty of white Western men who darn sure didn’t want to see it end. So white Western men invented Jim Crow, which was eventually taken apart by black (and white) Western men and women.

  20. Confused here
    1.It was Saudi nationals that did the deed,we attack Iraq and Afghan’s
    2. We rebuild a bigger target
    3, I am to fear and hate illiterate people ,the most of that haven’t even been farther than 30 miles from the village
    4 How long will the 9-11 hype go on ,I mean seriously this is a East coast story,My daughter works on the largest paper in a neighboring state out west here and when I told her I was sick of hearing about 9-11 thing ,she said you’re not the only one our paper ran a request for 9-11 input to do a feature and got 2 letters in reply -It’s over
    The result of this continuous rehash is eroding freedom, over 250 thousand agents of various alphabet soup names, 15000 paid informants.streets that look like northern Mexico with Ninjas and their H&K Mp5 sub-machine guns pacing back and forth -Not good
    Mean while we have endless war and wartime economy,the crooks are still on Wall St, and in the Banks ,we are a debtor nation ,who has become our Financiers mercenaries( China will get Afghanistan’s minerals) and now we are being hyped for war with Iran
    The only growth industry be private contractor (mercenary) or sandbag (body guard) for one of the elite.
    NONE of this is new read the old Testament same game different names

  21. The evening before 9/11, my nephew was born. His dad was military, about to retire. 9/11 was a different day for them. The base hospital was locked down, and luckily they were all there together. The retirement was put on hold for another 8 years, including a trip to Afganistan. So when I see my nephew, I know how long ago that day was.

    I was at work in the rural midwest when it happened. A traveling health clinic for low income moms and children, set up in a church. Someone called to tell us they weren’t coming in and why, and someone rolled a TV over for us to see what was going on. I felt the world had changed, our lives had changed……and somehow, weighing and measuring babies and giving vaccinations seemed very important to me. Taking care of people felt like the right thing to be doing.

    Caring for people still seems like a very important thing to be doing. I can’t change the whole world, but I can do my little part.

  22. Chaplain Mike,

    Thank you for posting this. Michael’s feelings are very similar to my initial feelings after 9/11. Reading this takes me back.

    I actually went even further than Michael did here. I was in junior high then, and our teacher asked us to write an essay about 9/11 and how we had reacted to it. I wrote an angry screed against the “liberals” who had opened our country up for attack. It was very Jerry Falwell-like (I even blamed environmentalists and feminists).

    Looking back, I was reacting in anger against a terrible event, while repeating things I had heard from people at church or from my parents about the danger of “liberalism.” It all kind of went together in my mind.

    Needless, I’ve come a long way from those days, but I think Michael Spencer circa 2001 speaks for a lot of us back then.