It doesn't seem possible that 9 years have elapsed since the cowardly attacks on innocents in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon. But it has. I was at work when I first heard the news of the attack. The first word I got was that a cropduster had plowed into a building in NYC. I didn't know what the hell was going on up there but I knew that a cropduster was not likely to be involved in an incident in Manhattan.
A lot has happened in the last 9 years. 2 of my buddies went to Iraq. One went to Afghanistan. They all made it back thank God. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast. A black man was elected President. The Saints won the Super Bowl. And coalition forces are leaving Iraq to pretty much continue the experiment with democracy on its own.
Where are we at after 9 years? Hard to say. Al-Queda, while still capable of spasmodic lethality, is a shadow of its former self. However, the Taliban in Afghanistan is resurgent. The government there is completely and utterly corrupt. The Taliban, for all its misogynistic brutality, is considered to possess a certain morality that the political leaders do not. Which is perverse when you consider that they murder children and medical workers. Afghanistan, as Kipling knew, is a considerably tough nut to crack.
Oh that Uncle Sam could wave a wand and completely eradicate them both from the planet. But it's complicated. And we Americans don't like complications. Especially in an election year.
These are fearful times. And fearful times produce irrational responses. As the World Trade Center rebuilds-finally-a furor ensues over the plans of an Islamic congregation to build what they refer to as a cultural center near there. This has been extravagantly referred to by some to as the "Ground Zero Mosque" and it has been the subject of virulent discourse on the Internet and talk radio.
Me? I'm conflicted. Gettysburg is hallowed ground. A commercial center that has a strip joint and a tattoo parlor in closer proximity to GZ than the proposed Islamic center is not so much. Besides, to be insulted by this is to brand all Islam as the enemy. This ignores the fact that Islamic people died in 9-11. They serve honorably in the armed forces. And Islamic employees of the Pentagon, which was also just as much attacked on 9-11 and therefore just as hallowed a patch of ground, are provided space there in which to worship.
But while it would be wrong to tar all of Islam with the same brush I can't help but think that the leaders behind this project have developed a tin ear when it comes to concerns expressed by representatives of some of the families of people that perished in the attack. While the presence of a mosque in the vicinity would not offend me in the slightest, I did not lose a wife or brother there. Surely, people of good will can come to some compromise based on a mutual understanding of common desires and concerns.
I would hope that, if anything, the last 9 years have taught us that 1.5 billion adherents to Islam do not walk in lockstep and that the Taliban is no more to that faith than Terry Jones is to Christianity.
The world is a complicated place. I'm not so sure we have learned that lesson in 9 years.