Freedom: not free, not forgotten -- then or now

Every once in a while, those who want to control us are forced to watch helplessly while the basically decent folks in this country engage in spontaneous outbursts of simple, American, morality. I saw this firsthand on October 17, 1989 after the San Francisco Earthquake (where ordinary people who had never met went out of their way to help each other -- and this in a city widely considered to be America's Great Satan!) I saw it again in New York in the days following September 11, 2001.

These days, I see it among bloggers. I might not like all of them, and I might criticize some of them, but their sincerity and desire to help this country is something I find deeply moving. I have been blogging in earnest for less than four months, and I feel renewed almost daily.

One year ago I was asked the question (posed at the G. Gordon Liddy Show's website): How has your life changed since September 11?

This was my answer:

September 11 has, I must confess, soured me enormously. It confirmed so many of my worst fears that it has made me question many times whether I still want to call myself an American.

Yet, as I think it over, I realize that to throw away my own identity and country simply because I have seen a terrible thing happen to it, why, that would be desertion.

What is it that has the most bothered me? Why have I become so soured by September 11? After all, in the days which followed September 11, I saw many things which renewed my faith in the goodness and decency of ordinary Americans. Certainly, that is not a bad thing.

I guess what bothers me the most, and what really has changed my life -- for better or for worse -- is the realization that I can no longer take our precious freedom for granted. Probably I never could (and maybe I never did) but seeing those buildings come down hammered it home in a way which nothing will ever alter. Never again in my life will I spend one day taking our freedom for granted. That is how September 11 has changed me.

As an admirer of Ayn Rand for most of my life, I share her view of the American skyscraper as more than just a building. Each one is a monument to individuality, to the American "can-do" spirit, and, most of all, to freedom. The Twin Towers stood as gigantically strong, seemingly indestructible, twin pillars of freedom. I will never be able to shake that awful memory of how, in the instant these giants came crashing down, they were suddenly not strong at all, and certainly not to be taken for granted. Instead, they appeared very frail and delicate.

And now, I know that American freedom is frail and delicate. It cannot and must not ever be taken for granted.

Bad as it was to see our enemies bring down such a symbol of freedom as the World Trade Center, it was even worse to see ordinary Americans being told that it was their fault. Unbelievably, this message did not come solely from Osama bin Laden and his supporters. People here, on the left as well as the right, told us that we were to blame. Next, a chorus of voices declared that because our enemies had destroyed the Twin Towers, that we had too much freedom, and that some of it must now be taken away. That was too much for me. It has taken me some time to realize the connection, but I now see that our freedom is like the Twin Towers: seemingly strong and indestructible, but at the same time frail and delicate -- and quite mortal in the face of an evil threat.

I am sorry to have seen the efforts to undermine our freedom meet with some success. Any success at all in undermining freedom is of course success beyond the terrorists' wildest dreams, for they never had the power to destroy our freedom. But just as the ordinary Americans inside the Twin Towers were good and decent people, that did not save them. Similarly the fact that ordinary Americans are good and decent people will not alone prevent the destruction of their freedom. September 11 showed that freedom -- no matter how strong we might imagine it to be -- can be destroyed just as thoroughly as big strong buildings. But unlike the destruction of big, strong buildings, when freedom comes finally crashing down, you won't see it reported in the evening news, because we won't have the freedom to hear about it.

If it happens, maybe you'll get to hear about it on the Liddy Show -- at least, before the G-Man and others who love freedom are hauled away by government censors. I certainly hope and pray this does not happen. But hoping and praying is not enough, just as being a good American is not enough. September 11 made me realize that our freedom, if we take it for granted, is up for grabs.

Thus, September 11 has changed my life forever. I cannot ever again take our freedom for granted, and I don't see how anybody can.

Bloggers do not take freedom for granted either.

I am glad as hell to be here right now.

There is not much I would add to what I said then. But there is one thing I have noticed. This year, it seems that September 11 is being downgraded deliberately. The big networks and big newspapers are not planning a retrospective focus as they did last year. Do they want us to forget?

Some people might forget, but I am glad bloggers won't. I could never cite you all, because I would spend all day doing just that. But here are a couple of things, lest anyone forget. This morning, Glenn Reynolds cites Lee Harris:

Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe....
And next, here is a link I found at Little Green Footballs. It is the best slide show I have seen of September 11, period. Forty six pictures in all, and you can just click on each one to see the next. Each picture has a quotation above it, such as this gem:
He who puts up with insult invites injury. ~ Proverb
Even if you're really busy, it doesn't take long to view these forty six pictures, and I can't think of a better way to remember September 11.

I am very proud that Little Green Footballs linked to me, and not just because it's a leading blog. There is no more staunch supporter of Israel in the blogosphere, and Israel needs the support of every one of us. I mentioned Ayn Rand in that piece I wrote last year. It is no coincidence Ayn Rand's "A Moral Defense of Israel" was seized last year by Canadian censors as "hate propaganda." I wasn't blogging then, so I couldn't link to this, but I am glad I can now.

There are many in the United States would censor Ayn Rand's defense of Israel now as "hate propaganda" if they could. That is because Israel and Israelis are too much like us. And we should never forget that those who hate Israel hate us. Americans are, as the slogan goes, "hated all over the world!" because of our support for Israel.

Such remarks always sting me -- because they are true. We are hated all over the world because of our loyalty to Israel. As to why these millions of people apparently hate us for supporting Israel -- why, Jews have been hated for centuries by people "all over the world" for the crime of being Jewish. If millions of people hate us just as they hate the Jews, Americans ought to be proud, not ashamed, for being the target of such hatred.

As these hate-mongers often say, America is the "Great Satan," and Israel is the "Little Satan." Those Americans who want us to abandon Israel ought to ask why the self proclaimed enemies of "Great Satan" would suddenly hate us less simply because they successfully bullied us into abandoning our "little Satan."

Last year I realized that just as I won’t take our freedom for granted ever again, nor will I ever take the welfare of Israel for granted again. I often wonder whether Israel has even a greater appreciation of freedom than we do, for while we suffered thousands of casualties on September 11, Israel has endured the equivalent of innumerable September 11ths, for many, many years. Yet Israel remains a free, democratic, country. Americans who want to do away with our freedom and disarming us so that we can no longer defend ourselves – simply because we were attacked on September 11 – ought to ask how it is the Israelis have suffered so much more, and for so much longer, and yet remain a bastion of freedom and an example for most of the world. Instead of bashing Israel, Americans ought to be imitating Israel.

I can't help but notice that those Americans who hate Israel all seem to hate themselves. We can't let them win. The hatred of others cannot destroy us unless we join them. And we join them when we hate ourselves and our freedom.

Don't hate ourselves?

Does that have to be a profound concept?

It shouldn't be -- any more than the idea that self defense is not "hate."

posted by Eric on 09.11.03 at 05:12 AM


Dear Eric: Thank you. Freedom!

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  September 11, 2003 11:15 AM


Eric Scheie   ·  September 13, 2003 8:16 AM

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