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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, September 11, 2006


September 11

posted by russell at Monday, September 11, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Five years ago today, 19 guys with box cutters flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. They killed themselves in the process, along with a little under 3,000 other people. It's hard, at least for me, to understand exactly why they did this, and what, if anything, they thought they would accomplish. I don't know if I'll ever understand it, actually, or if I really want to put myself into whatever frame of mine is necessary to do so. In any case, they did it.

Five years ago today, a young mother sat on a plane next to her two year old daughter, knowing that both of their lives would end in a few short minutes. A man stayed behind in one of the towers with a coworker who was wheelchair bound, knowing that it would probably mean his life. Faced with a choice of incineration or jumping to their deaths, numbers leapt from the top of the towers. Some held hands as they did so. Some were on fire as they did so.

Hundreds of firemen and other rescue workers acted against every instinct of survival and walked up into the burning towers to save those who were still inside.

Thousands of people filed out of the towers to safety, wondering if they would make it or if they would die. I imagine that most of them, by far, were simply scared out of their wits, hoped and prayed they would get out alive, and ran like hell once they got to the street. That is what I imagine I would do.

A handful of people, knowing their lives were forfeit, stood up and fought the hijackers face to face and hand to hand, to prevent whatever larger catastrophe was intended.
We all remember where we were when it happened. We all remember the sickening feeling, the horror of watching the towers fall, the months and years (even still) of anxiety worrying when and where it would happen again, the confusion and inability to understand "why".

This is what war looks like when it comes to your country, your city, your family, your home. The good and the bad die together. The innocent and the guilty, the powerful and the poor, all alike are thrown into the fire. Most emerge scarred, many beyond any hope of being made whole. Some do not emerge at all. The fruit of great effort, of many human lifetime's effort, is laid waste and destroyed. Things are broken beyond repair or remedy.

In this country, we have rarely had to see war so closely as we saw it five years ago. I hope we never see it again.

What I hope we learn from the events of that day is this: war is, at best, a bitter and tragic necessity, and at worst an evil, wasteful sin. To go to war is to loose destruction, death, and chaos without discrimination. It is to kill, to crush, to scour, to destroy, to waste. All of these things have effects far beyond the immediate moment.

To think that anyone is "in control" of war, or the outcome of war, is delusion. Those who see war as a reasonable or acceptable instrument for achieving political ends are irresponsible, insane, and dangerous. You go to war when you must, and for no other reason.

This day belongs to the memory of those whose lives were torn from them, against their will, and who faced their fates with whatever courage, faith, hope, and love they could summon in the worst imaginable circumstances. May we never forget them, nor may we ever abuse their memory.

Thank you.


thank you russell. You put in words what I feel and felt. I remember exactly where I was and what i was doing that day and I know the stakes of what lies ahead.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.