This is the beginning of yet another must-read Mark Steyn column:
This year I marked the anniversary of Sept. 11 by driving through Massachusetts. It wasn’t exactly planned that way, just the way things panned out. So, heading toward Boston, I tuned to Bay State radio talk-show colossus Howie Carr and heard him reading out portions from the official address to the 9/11 commemoration ceremony by Deval Patrick, who is apparently the governor of Massachusetts: 9/11, said Gov. Patrick, “was a mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States.”
“Mean and nasty”? He sounds like an oversensitive waiter complaining that John Kerry’s sent back the aubergine coulis again. But evidently that’s what passes for tough talk in Massachusetts these days – the shot heard around the world and so forth. Anyway, Gov. Patrick didn’t want to leave the crowd with all that macho cowboy rhetoric ringing in their ears, so he moved on to the nub of his speech: 9/11, he continued, “was also a failure of human beings to understand each other, to learn to love each other.”
I was laughing so much I lost control of the wheel, and the guy in the next lane had to swerve rather dramatically. He flipped me the Universal Symbol of Human Understanding. I certainly understood him, though I’m not sure I could learn to love him. Anyway, I drove on to Boston and pondered the governor’s remarks. He had made them, after all, before an audience of 9/11 families: Six years ago, two of the four planes took off from Logan Airport, and so citizens of Massachusetts ranked very high among the toll of victims. Whether any of the family members present Tuesday were offended by Gov. Patrick, no one cried “Shame!” or walked out on the ceremony. Americans are generally respectful of their political eminences, no matter how little they deserve it.
We should beware anyone who seeks to explain 9/11 by using the words “each other”: They posit a grubby equivalence between the perpetrator and the victim – that the “failure to understand” derives from the culpability of both parties. The 9/11 killers were treated very well in the United States: They were ushered into the country on the high-speed visa express program the State Department felt was appropriate for young Saudi males. They were treated cordially everywhere they went. The lap-dancers at the clubs they frequented in the weeks before the Big Day gave them a good time – or good enough, considering what lousy tippers they were. Sept. 11 didn’t happen because we were insufficient in our love to Mohamed Atta.
This isn’t a theoretical proposition. At some point in the future, some of us will find ourselves on a flight with a chap like Richard Reid, the thwarted shoe-bomber. On that day we’d better hope the guy sitting next to him isn’t Gov. Patrick, who sees him bending down to light his sock and responds with a chorus of “All You Need Is Love,” but a fellow who “understands” enough to wallop the bejesus out of him before he can strike the match. It was the failure of one group of human beings to understand that the second group of human beings was determined to kill them that led the crew and passengers of those Boston flights to stick with the obsolescent 1970s hijack procedures until it was too late.
It would be so nice to say that Steyn’s point — there is an “us” and there is a “them” — falls into the “duh” category, if it weren’t for the fact that so many Americans seem incapable of understanding it, and do still try for the la-la-la kumbiyah school of international relations. Of course, these warm fuzzy types are better (if only slightly) than the 30% of their compatriots who have decided that there is an “us” and a “them,” with the “us” being their Birkenstocked selves, and the them being their own government. That’s not mere denial, that’s insanity.