Too Sentimental?

Monday, September 18, 2006
Mark Steyn complains about the lack of anger and rage over 9/11 and wonders if we are wimps?

Passivity is far slyer and more lethal than rabid Bush hatred. Say what you like about the left-wing kooks but they can still get a good hate on. Sure, they hate Bush and Cheney and Rummy and Halliburton and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh rather than Saddam and the jihadists, but at least they can still muster primal emotions. Every morning I wake up to a gazillion e-mails from fellows wishing me ill, usually beginning by calling me a "chicken hawk" followed by a generous smattering of words I can only print here peppered with asterisks, and usually ending with pledges to come round and shove various items in a particular part of my anatomy. There's so much shipping scheduled to go up there I ought to get Dubai Ports World in to run it.

The foaming leftie routine seems to be a tough sell to a general audience. I see that, a mere three weeks after I guest-hosted for Rush, the widely acclaimed and even more widely unlistened-to Air America is going belly up. Coincidence? You be the judge. But I doubt the "liberal" radio network would be kaput if anti-Bush fever were about to sweep the Democrats to power this November. I think I said a few months back that the Dems would be waking up to their usual biennial Wednesday morning after the Tuesday night before, and I'll stick with that.

But there's more to the national discourse than party politics. And, whoever wins or loses, the cult of feebly tasteful passivity rolls on regardless. As part of National Review's fifth anniversary observances, James Lileks wrote the following:

"If 9/11 had really changed us, there'd be a 150-story building on the site of the World Trade Center today. It would have a classical memorial in the plaza with allegorical figures representing Sorrow and Resolve, and a fountain watched over by stern stone eagles. Instead there's a pit, and arguments over the usual muted dolorous abstraction approved by the National Association of Grief Counselors. The Empire State Building took 18 months to build. During the Depression. We could do that again, but we don't. And we don't seem interested in asking why."

I don't think that is really true. I grew up a baby boomer. And there were no ceremonies for Pearl Harbor..angry or otherwise, just a declaration of war. We scarcely acknowledge the dead in Korea even though thousands of our troops stand vigil there today. I think the idea that a less genteel America always ran headlong into war before and that rage was what drove us is in and of itself another kind of sentimentality. I loved John Wayne, but the Duke was an actor...he was not the real thing. Most of the men of his generation did not hate, or nurture anger...they just did what they had to and then went home to their families. Often as not, they did not speak of the things they saw and did. Their baby boomer children did not even bother to build them a memorial until most of them were dead. So perhaps this reflective reaction is not that unusual after all.


Pastorius said...

Terrye, I think you are right. But, you know, there sure is a lot of crying about 9/11, isn't there?

It's rather unbecoming.

Ed onWestSlope said...

"Their baby boomer children did not even bother to build them a memorial until most of them were dead. "

I think most people realize that memorials are for the departed and are best when conducted or erected several years removed from the event. The rush to rebuild the towers is appropriate. The associated memorial and many of the stated reasons/design philosophy for rebuilding the towers stinks, in my opinion.

Greatness is usually humble. I agree with Pastrius.

terrye said...

I think the crying was for what came after.

Pastorius said...

I'm sorry, I don't understand. I'm being thick. After what?

chuck said...

I agree with you, Terrye. And being angry all the time is no way to live, except perhaps for pundits. I get angry about 9/11 now and then, but life goes on. I expect even the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have better things to do than just be angry.

In Pearl Harbor there is a memorial over the battleship Arizona. It is low key and tasteful, and that's pretty much it. As to the returning soldiers in WWII, one of my neighbors was surprised to learn in highschool that her dad had fought on Guadalcanal. As to myself, I remember as a boy sitting in the basement with a neighbor girl going through wartime photos in a shoebox that she had found: trucks full of bodies from battles in Europe, that sort of thing. I expect her dad would have been upset if he had known. There were other small reminders: one of my scout troop leaders had been a sergeant in Europe and could tell us how to stop arterial bleeding from first hand experience, one of my history teachers knew the guys shown dead on the beach and half buried in sand in a famous photo from the Philippines, so on and so forth. So there was an undertone, but apart from Memorial Day and the Fourth of July it didn't advertize itself much.