9/11 and Forgiveness

I'm sorry, but on this 13th anniversary I'm not looking for closure.

frOn a certain day in the very recent past, before the sun had melted the morning into afternoon, I had been told three times that forgiveness was the order of the day for this upcoming 13th anniversary of 9/11.  Once was by the carnival barker/news anchor on the television.  I heard it for the second time by a teenager in a television commercial, urging his fellow citizens to commit "acts of service" as a means of remembrance.  Lastly, a sign on the marquis outside a church I drove past read, "Remember, but Forgive."

It has always been a difficult concept for a hothead like me to grasp, this forgiveness thing. I know Jesus would, but I'm no Jesus.  To me, forgiveness is something bestowed on those who erred unintentionally, or through a lapse in judgment, not for those who acted out of a malicious intent to harm or kill.  I can't fathom forgiving the rapist of a child or the savage murderer of the innocent and helpless.  It is a good thing that I am not all-powerful, because I would make for a terribly vengeful god.

It was a beautiful day on which I wrote this. The sky was crystalline blue; the air was clear, with a whisper of the coolness of approaching fall.  In fact, it was a near-carbon copy of the weather from thirteen years earlier.  I remember watching the warplanes buzzing over my city like angry hornets on that day, to and fro, with armaments hanging menacingly from their wings.  Only later would I discover that they were performing an over-watch operation, guarding the airspace above the military base south of town, where President George W. Bush had just landed in Air Force One.

I come from a military family and am a veteran myself.  I understand the nature of conflict, and the reasons to avoid it, if possible.  I also realize that conflict is often unavoidable, and at times even preferable to maintaining the status quo.

After the brutal assault we suffered on 9/11/01, we could have maintained our usual pattern of treating terrorism as a police matter and launched an international investigation.  Or we could have followed the fetid and worn advice of the appeasers (who tell us everything is our fault) and simply offered money or a new aid program to assuage the perpetrators of this attack.  Instead, we chose war, and properly so.

Now that the 13th anniversary is here, I don't feel the catharsis the media tells me I should have experienced by now.  I must be a barbaric freak – some war-loving monkey with a cylindrical brain that recycles the same hatred over and over again, tumbling it like compost until it steams.  I'm supposed to forgive, and even, according to some commentators from the left, forget that 9/11 happened.  To "get over ourselves," as the "enlightened" opine.

It finally occurred to me, though, why I couldn't get right with this whole "forgiveness" theme.  It struck me why I bristled at the suggestion by President Obama that we declare 9/11 a "day of service," casting about for volunteer opportunities as a way of honoring our dead.  The unrest in my heart was not courtesy of 9/11 itself; it was the tainting of the victory America deserved and earned after 9/11 that spawned my ill ease.

In times past, our remembrances have been predicated on victory, whole and entire.  Such victories are the necessary resolutions of violent conflict.  No one celebrates a stalemate, much less a loss.  WWII was solid.  We won.  Polio was solid.  We beat that, too.  In the Civil War, we lamented the terrible price our countrymen paid, but we celebrated the ultimate supremacy of our Union, and built ever higher on that hard-won foundation.

The War on Terror, like Vietnam, has emerged muddled and unclear, seemingly by design. It is precisely this feeling that the left seeks to engender in us: a sense of haplessness – to have us view our defense as a burden of care that we can't wait to lay down.

I don't want to lay down that burden.  I'm not looking for closure.  I want to fight.  I want to ratchet up the retribution until the very ground our enemy stands upon screams its submission, and the air itself cracks with the blast of our righteous vengeance.  Our blood-earned victory has been stolen -- and I want it back.

I want those who preach the politics of defeat and appeasement to find themselves shunned at every turn by those of us who still believe that America fights when America is right – and that to accept anything short of victory is to dishonor the sacrifice of the dead and wounded.

War is an ugly and repulsive thing, but it is not as ugly and repulsive as the coward who would lick the hand of his master and thank him for beating him less today than the day before.  America has changed the world in unprecedented ways.  We have shown the common souls of this earth that they are possessed of an inherent worth, granted by a force mightier than any government, and not subject to the whims and designs of men.

Despite our successes, or perhaps because of them, the brutish of the world are fighting back.  Never forget: the default position of humanity has always been brutal oppression and savage war.  America and the ideals of its founding have done more to change that than anything else, save Christianity.

The left wishes us to accept less than winning.  We aren't any better than all the other nations of the earth, they tell us.  Well, I think that those on the left are right: they aren't any better than all the other nations, but the rest of us are, and we intend to raise a standard to which the righteous and patriotic may aspire.  I say fight on, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The "parade marshal" of the American left, Barack Obama, marches proudly toward an alternative vision of our nation, leading those who fail to recognize that our strength is built upon action, not apology – goodness in the deed, not merely the intention.

We have earned our victory.  We deserve it as a nation and as a people, and I intend to mark the anniversary of 9/11 with martial pride and a hearty thump of the chest.  Let 9/11 be a day of service for those inclined to servitude.  For me, it will always be a reminder that our safety is only as sure as our strength.  To God the glory; to the rest of us, Semper Fidelis!

Joe Herring writes from Omaha, Nebraska and welcomes visitors to his website at www.readmorejoe.com. He is the communications director for the Global Faith Institute