How long does it take a nation to forget a wound to its heart?
Six years ago, Islamic terrorists murdered 3000 Americans. The country watched in horror as men and women flung themselves from the top stories of the World Trade Center, desperately attempting to escape the flames rising beneath them; as firefighters were crushed beneath the falling towers; as Americans were consumed by a ball of fire springing from Flight 77 at the Pentagon; as Flight 93 plummeted to consecrated earth in Pennsylvania.
If we took one day to mourn each of the lives taken on September 11, our mourning period would last more than eight years. It has been just six years, and America is already in grave danger of wiping clean the slate of memory.
Did our acute need for closure overcome our more honorable instinct for justice? Were we so horrified by the images of September 11 that we deliberately blinded ourselves to the continuing presence of evil in our world, preferring to retreat to the pre-September 11 rut?
Or has a far more insidious tendency taken root in our politics?
September 11, common parlance has it, changed everything. "Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom," President Bush told Americans on September 20, 2001. "Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Freedom and fear are at war."
And for the first few years, Americans agreed with President Bush: Islamism was a global problem, not a simple law enforcement issue. Islamic tyranny, combined with a willingness to harbor and finance international terrorist groups, could not be tolerated. We would not wait for another 9/11 -- we would act firmly, decisively and pre-emptively.