What a difference eight years make. We forget the agony, the gruesome details of death in the Twin Towers, when hundreds of Americans faced the choice of jumping to their deaths or waiting to be burned alive or crushed under the weight of collapsing concrete. We all felt that "there but for the grace of God go I."
We've forgotten the sudden fear at the sound of an unexpected plane overhead (though New Yorkers felt a reprise of that terror this week when one of the president's planes flew low over lower Manhattan in a training exercise), of our suspicious glances at the "swarthy" man sitting next to us in a crowded theater, a sports arena or an outdoor concert. We've forgotten how eagerly we embraced the tedious obstacles to personal freedoms that we confront every time we board an airplane.
We forget how appreciative we were of George W. Bush that the outrages of human decency following 9-11 were not in New York or Washington but in Madrid and London. But it's not fashionable to remember all that this season. The absence of mayhem is just a happy coincidence.
Few of us concern ourselves with how this happened. We don't celebrate the illnesses we don't get. We usually appreciate the doctors who administer the vaccine. In the years following 9-11, faith in government "intelligence" was rewarded. We grew to put aside daily fears because we felt the men and women in charge really were in control. The intelligence agents were living up to their assignments. If "mistakes were made," as the passive voice addresses uncomfortable facts, we stopped making them. They're behind us now.
President Obama was right when he announced to the CIA that he wouldn't punish those who followed "Bush administration guidelines." He was right when he said he wouldn't look back in anger at the Bush administration officials who approved of "enhanced interrogation," that "this is not the time for retribution." We hope the president remembers that there's nothing banal about keeping your word.