A high school sophomore asked me this week whether Sept. 11 would always be remembered. Would it always be, as she put it, "somber"?
Lacking a crystal ball, I have no answer. And, frankly, looking back seven years to that cataclysmic jihadist atrocity, I realize I'm probably not the most dependable prognosticator because never would I have imagined back in 2001 how successful that heinous strike would be in utterly changing us and our world.
Blame ignorance, blame cowardice: The strangest effect of 9/11 has been, on balance, an accelerated campaign of accommodation of Islam's law in the West, a campaign boosted across the globe by the jihadist attacks of 3/11 (Madrid 2004) and 7/7 (London 2005) and many, many others. Paradoxically, such fast-track accommodation has occurred even as any and all connection between jihadist acts and Islam -- specifically Islamic war doctrine -- have been emphatically ruled out by our leaders, both civilian and military. It's not that they have disproven the connection. Worse, they have chosen to ignore it.
With this in mind, it becomes possible to understand how President Bush could this week vaguely invoke the spirit of 9/11, as it were, to spur Americans to "volunteer" more. Similar statements came out of the presidential campaigns with Barack Obama also talking up the "spirit of service," while he and John McCain jointly called on Americans to "renew" the unity of 9/11 (while honoring the dead, and grieving with those who lost loved ones). It's not that we shouldn't do such things -- but to what end? I mean, was 9/11 a catastrophic hurricane, or a jihadist act of war?
Meanwhile, the undermining reach of Islamic law stretches across American society, from the hilltop farm in rural Vermont, where goats are now raised to be slaughtered according to Islamic law, to Wall Street, where once-mighty financial institutions, some of them having become trinkets of Islamic potentates, now adapt themselves to Sharia banking practices, to Washington, D.C., where stately government buildings have been ringed in quasi-medieval, high tech anti-jihad defenses. It may be politically incorrect to notice this expansion of Islamic influence in the West, but it is also extremely difficult not to notice it. Then again, perhaps due to a 9/11 numbing effect, too few of us do.
Just last month, for example, publishing heavyweight Random House pulled a romance novel about Muhammad from its fall line-up out of fear of Islamic violence in New York City -- yawn. Also last month, Mazen Asbahi, Obama's director of Muslim outreach, resigned over ties to the Muslim Brotherhood -- snore. (According to Investor's Business Daily, Asbahi continues to work in some capacity for the campaign.) Last spring, the U.S. government issued guidelines for the Department of Homeland Security and others that "suggest" such terms as "jihad" and "Islamic terrorism" not be used; snooze. Earlier this year, revelations that the No. 2 man at the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, was closely assisted by Hesham Islam, "an Islamist with a pro-Muslim Brotherhood bent who has brought in groups to the Pentagon who have been unindicted co-conspirators," according to terror expert Steven Emerson, drew a big yawn, snores and a snooze.
Who could have imagined any of this, back when there was still a massive hole of burning ash at the bottom of Manhattan?
Today, of course, there is in downtown Manhattan a lavish memorial in the works, while at the Pentagon, what the Washington Post called "a memorial to loss" was unveiled this week. These and other such markers will note a day that will probably live on in somberness, to use the sophomore's word, rather than in what an earlier generation might have described as infamy. As a society, we appear to have decided to remember 9/11 as something akin to a natural disaster that came and went rather than as a part of a diffuse but discernable push to advance the law of Islam.
I am struck by the sharp contrast between this perspective and a very different kind of 9/11 commemoration, this one planned for this year's anniversary in Brussels.
According to initial press accounts, it was a small affair -- just 50 people led by Flemish separatist leader Filip Dewinter of the Vlaams Belang party. Like last year, when this same group was brutally dispersed by Belgian police, they gathered in front of the World Trade Center in Brussels not only to mark the attacks on America but to protest the Islamization of Europe. Some number of them were arrested by the order of the mayor, who had earlier denied the group a permit for the demonstration, citing the possibility of violence over the "sensitivity" of the event, the proximity of "sensitive" neighborhoods (i.e., Muslim), and the season of Ramadan.
A somber day, indeed.