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Two years. Hard to believe it. It seems almost surreal now, as it fades slightly into the distance. Almost hard to believe that it happened. And then you remember the little things, from Barbara Olsen on the plane to the horror of watching the buildings crumble, to the amazing concept of 72 hours without commercials, and it all comes back, if not quite as vividly as before.

But we've come so far. We've fought a war on terrorism in two theaters, while fighting a longer, more intense diplomatic war in between those two conflicts. In some ways, the world feels like it has changed so much since 9/11; we've gone from the End of History to the Clash of Civilizations. And yet in other ways, it feels as if it hasn't changed at all. Last year, 9/11 was a huge, emotional day. This year, the networks have forgotten about it -- or decided to ignore it -- and the media focus has shifted from remembrance of the events themselves to metastories about the way people are dealing with the anniversary of the events. Policywise, we've gone from "Oh my god, how should we react?" in 2001 to "What should we do? What's our long term strategy for foreign policy?" in 2002 to "Why did we do it? What did he know and when did he know it? How is this going to affect the 2004 election?"

In a way, it's depressing; the brief period of certainty, with a widespread shared sense of purpose, is gone. No longer does the national sense of unity endure. There will be no more 420-1 votes in Congress regarding American policy. Petty partisan squabbles again predominate, and foreign policy has been displaced by, or at least forced to share space with, the Kobe Bryant story.

And yet, in a way, it's reassuring; life does go on. The war is not over, not nearly over. There are major battles left to fight, both militarily and diplomatically. And national security will be back on the electoral agenda after completely disappearing for the 8 years of Clinton. But, we're not obsessed with it. And that's a good thing. We don't have to be. We're not Israel, constantly under siege; we can get on with our lives. We can pay attention to the campaign of the Governator and the World Series and Ben and J-Lo and the economy and the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. In the past, some -- such as Bill Maher -- have proclaimed our pre-9/11 obsession with these sorts of matters as a sign of American decadence. But it isn't; it's a sign of our strength. We can afford to pay attention to these matters, most of the time, because we focus on the important things when we need to.

So on this second anniversary of the Day Which Changed Everything, we should remember, and reflect, and mourn, and resolve to stay the course for as long as it takes until we have won this war as decisively as we won the Cold War. As we should every future 9/11. But we shouldn't wallow, and we shouldn't feel guilty about having "moved on."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 11, 2003 5:49 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Taking sides again.

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