September 12

It has been 14 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s the day each year when Americans share the answer to a very simple, basic question: “Where were you?” The question begs no further clarification needed, at least not today. Those who were alive and cognizant at the time remember just where they were.

For all the sadness, heartbreak, ugliness, and terror of September 11, something amazing happened on September 12. It’s a bit tough to talk about because of the gravity and the horror of the attacks themselves. It manifested itself in different ways, not all of them good. There was patriotism, and love of country. There was a resolve to fight the forces behind the attacks.

But in the days after September 11, we had more than blind patriotism. We had community. We had each other.

It’s easy now to write that off as a fad of the time, to point to the catchy post-9/11 country ballads, the now-onerous airport security, and most of all the unpopular wars that sprang from the attacks. Listening to today’s political rhetoric makes it easy to forget the unity America felt.

You can see the continuation of that each year on Facebook, when people share tributes to their lost friends and loved ones or simply relive the emotions and experiences of the day.

But as we remember the grief each year, so too should we remember that feeling of togetherness that outweighed our disagreements back then – because there’s nothing more singularly American, nor more human, than getting up after falling down.

We should remember that when we hear Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the very first thing he sings about – the very first thing! – is getting knocked down and getting back up.

We should remember that our national anthem isn’t a song about purple mountains and fruited plains. No, our national anthem is adapted from a poem about taking a bombardment from the dominant military power in the world at the time – and standing strong. (And we used one of their old drinking songs for the tune. Cheers, mates.)

And you know what happens when you sing the national anthem publicly, and get nervous, and mess it up? This:

We should remember that no matter how loosely stitched our seems appear, the thread that holds us together is strong. That no matter how horrible and scary a day September 11, on September 12 we were family.

We should remember all that – and never forget.

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IT’S A TRAP: The Ground Zero Mosque

On the Today show this morning, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks sat down to talk about their new book, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.  FreedomWorks is well-positioned to ride the wave of citizen unrest that gave rise to the tea party – they’ve been making the case for less government for years.

So of course the first thing they were asked about was… the proposed mosque at ground zero.

Armey and Kibbe are both bright, so they immediately accused President Obama of weighing in on the mosque controversy to change the subject from “failed economic policies.”

Clearly, the President will score no political points with his lukewarm two-step of supporting the right to build a mosque while not supporting the mosque.  But there is a real threat that the controversy could muddy the GOP’s year-long message that government is trying to do too much with calls for government intervention in New York zoning decisions. As Gov. Chris Christie notes, Republicans run a risk by trying to turn the mosque controversy into their central campaign platform – especially with so many other messages that could work better.

Republican hopefuls must strike a balance between reminding people that the President disagrees with them on the mosque and using it to underscore the inability to trust the federal government to solve problems:

  • “The President is commenting on a local government zoning matter instead of paying attention to national priorities.”
  • “The President is talking about mosques while the rest of the country tries to figure out how to get out from under the failed stimulus package and get the economy moving again.”
  • ‘”The construction jobs building the mosque must be their best idea for job creation.”

See?  This stuff practically writes itself, and would allow Republicans to pivot to more substantive arguments about why they will make life better for the American people.

The GOP has plenty to talk about as November approaches.  Armey and Kibbe offer an excellent lesson: the mosque is a good conversation starter, but it shouldn’t dominate the discussion.