September 11, 2008
For a time, for a week after, we were all united. There is no tragedy that does work some small amount of good by bringing people together, if only for a time, if only because the pain of enduring is too much for any one to bear alone. It was a false unity, of course. We would later learn that we had not come together closer -- at least, not more than superficially, and not more than temporarily -- and had in fact moved further apart than ever before. The problem was, of course, that 9/11 had profound implications for Americans' divergent worldviews. For conservatives like us, it confirmed -- like nothing, nothing had done before, at least not since World War II -- that there were monstrous evils in the world for whom the only acceptable solution was purposeful and relentless violence.
For another group, the liberals, 9/11 was a blip, a short-term disruption of their worldview. For a while we believed we were united, but we were not. Liberals held that greater than any enemy was warfare itself. The necessary implications of this were that all possible courses of action were preferable to the United States engaging in acts of warfare, and further, that it must be true that the United States had within it the power to avoid all war simply by modifying its own behavior. One must believe that if one is truly pacifist: If one believes war can and must be avoided at all costs, one must by implication believe one can and must avoid war at all costs by changing the behavior of one's own country, for changing the behavior of other countries can only be accomplished via war and lesser, but still warlike, means.
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