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By Brian | September 11, 2007 | Share on Facebook

It has become a tradition of mine to post my thoughts about September 11, 2001 on its anniversary each year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006). This year is different in several ways.

First, I’m not in New York. Due to an important business trip, I won’t be in or near New York City on the anniversary of the attacks, and will likely not see much (if any) of the annual memorial service at Ground Zero. Intellectually, I know it doesn’t matter much at all; I’ve never gone to Ground Zero for the ceremonies, or even taken time off of work to watch them on television.

The closest I’ve come to a personal memorial has been to try and do something nice for a New York Police Officer on 9/11. In 2002, an officer was on line in front of me at a pizza place and I insisted on buying him his dinner. In 2004, while stuck in traffic approaching the Lincoln Tunnel on a hot 9/11 afternoon, I offered to buy the cop directing traffic a drink from a nearby street vendor (he politely refused). This year, as in other years, I won’t come into contact with any of New York’s Finest, but they’ll be in my thoughts.

Also new this year: my wife and I told my older son, Avery, about the attacks this weekend. He was 18 months old when they happened, but he’s seven now and has just begun second grade. We figured there was a pretty good chance that either a teacher or fellow student would mention it today, and we wanted him to hear about it from us, rather than from someone else.

I have to say, he took it very well. When I told him that 3,000 people died, he looked scared, but recovered very quickly and began asking questions: Did the buildings hit other buildings when they fell down? Did the bad men who hijacked the airplanes die too? Why would anyone do something that they knew would kill them? Why would anyone think that God would like it if they killed people? We answered all his questions as best we could, and then he said, “Can I go now?” and ran back upstairs to play with his brother.

I suspect he’ll have more questions in the coming days, weeks, or even years. That’s okay – I’ve been preparing myself to answer them for six years now, and while it made me nervous to bring it up (more nervous than it made him to hear it), I felt well prepared to answer his questions and to reassure him from his fears.

Finally, a few words about Osama Bin Laden’s latest video. I have to say, I thought he was dead. That’s not to say I thought we killed him, mind you. I thought that years of running and hiding, given his poor health to begin with, had taken its toll, that he’d died of natural causes, and that Al Qaeda had covered it up in order to claim his ability to avoid capture as an ever-present victory over the United States.

I was also found some of the things he said fascinating. For instance:

“All praise is due to Allah, who built the heavens and earth in justice, and created man as a favor and grace from Him. And from His ways is that the days rotate between the people, and from His Law is retaliation in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed.”

It’s revealing that he reads that ancient proverb as one of retaliation. James Lileks points out Dennis Prager’s thoughts:

It’s not about retaliation. It’s not an injunction to do unto others for the sake of vengeance. The message is proportionality. An eye for an eye, not two. A tooth for a tooth, not a mouthful.

The fact that Bin Laden sees it as a command to exact revenge on his enemies shows you the specific way in which his mind is severely twisted. Here’s more:

“There are two solutions for stopping [the Global War on Terror]. The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty, and our brothers are carrying it out, and I ask Allah to grant them resolve and victory.”

To reiterate: the best thing he can do to stop the war is to continue killing and fighting against us. The second solution, by the way, is for all of us to convert to Islam.

Bin Laden’s message is rife with our most public complaints about the Bush administration: negative public opinion polling, corporate influence on government policy, the Democrats’ unwillingness to halt war funding, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, the federal deficit, high taxes, global warming, and even the recent difficulties in the home mortgage market. Consistent with his reading of “an eye for an eye,” he sees these problems as a rationale for abandoning the democratic way of life, and embracing Islam. Our government has wronged us, he reasons, so out of revenge, we should wrong our government by running toward Islam. If we do so:

“It will also achieve your desire to stop the war as a consequence, because as soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost confidence in your democratic system and begun to search for an alternative, and that this alternative is Islam, they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam. So your true compliance with Islam will deprive them of the opportunity to defraud the peoples and take their money under numerous pretexts, like arms deals and so on.”

What Bin Laden doesn’t realize – what he’s never been able to realize – is that our constant carping signifies the strength in our system, not its weakness. We do not need to seek revenge against our government to change its policies. We need only make our disagreements public in a way that convinces the leadership (or the voters) to change direction. To one who has never known this freedom, our complaints may sound like desperate rage. And, as I’ve discussed on these pages before, perhaps we’ve been going about it in somewhat ineffective ways lately, reinforcing that idea.

In the end, though, the open debate of ideas is precisely what will allow us to persevere long after Bin Laden has sacrificed himself to gain “entrance into Paradise.” It is what truly makes us the greatest country in the history of the world.

God Bless America.

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