Patriot's Progress: September 11 and Freedom in America   [open pdf - 77KB]

Anything can happen. It was the lesson of September 11. Where were you on September 11? More to the point, where were you on September 10? The sudden movements of life, like those of the free mind, remain out of our control. Patriotism itself in the free country is out of control--anger, grief, sympathy, mutual appreciation, criticism, self-doubt, amusement, swerving to dreaminess, and individual independence. What can happen to a nation can happen to a state of mind, particularly in a country that is created out of a state of mind. If we were learning anything so far, it was that freedom was more difficult and complicated than we had ever dreamed. Where were we in our own country? Where were we in relation to the rest of the world? We do not like to think about the rest of the world very much. Big business likes to think of the world as customers. But for the rest of us, the great wide world has merely become the place where floods and earthquakes happen far away, especially since Russia has transmogrified from menace to (sort of) friend. If we had been more aware of the Muslim world, people told us, we could have anticipated September 11, if not prevented it. If we were more aware of our enemies in the world, we were told, we could raise them from poverty and from their ignorance about us--how wonderful we are, when you get to know us, how decent, fair-minded, how playful. In sum, our alertness to the conditions and attitudes of the wider world probably did nothing to draw us closer to it--except, in the most watery wishful thinking. America, we concluded, and rightly in my view, did nothing to deserve the murderous attacks on our people. If education would help in the future, by all means, let's all get educated. But that was a separable matter from the mad decisions of zealots. We are sure that we mean something worthwhile to ourselves and to others, that we have good reasons to survive and to triumph, and we will look for more.

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September 11: One year Later: A Special Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, September 2002, p. 25-28
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