Be Angry

After the 9-11 ceremonies, commentaries and protests, it hardly seems necessary to suggest it – everyone is already angry, right?

After the 9-11 ceremonies, commentaries and protests, it hardly seems necessary to suggest it – everyone is already angry, right?

No, everyone is offended: offended by plans for “Cordoba House,” a mosque within the World Trade Center damage zone; offended by how offended mosque supporters are with what they think is the offense taken by the rest of us; offended about where the money will come from; offended by being asked where the money will come from; offended to be asked to prove you’re an American; offended by being called Islamophobic; offended by Democrats; offended by Republicans.

Bruised feelings, however, are a risk we run for living in a country with freedom of speech and thought. (Mayor Bloomberg and the President, among others, might have said that at some point, rather than denigrating people whose views differ with theirs.) But reasoned anger is an appropriate response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and to the unfolding of our national life thereafter.

One of the mysteries of American life is the disappearance of the images of 9-11. We, who sat glued to our TV screens for countless hours that day, remember them – the planes, the fire, people crowded by the windows of the upper floors and the single man appearing to float on his way down a hundred stories. The crushed police cars and fire trucks – the wreckage of the protectors. The Statue of Liberty lifting her lamp to the disaster. The satellite photo that captured the smoke. The crumbling of edifices that helped to define America for Americans and for the world – the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The crumbling of our innocence.

They disappeared in part to keep Americans from wallowing in them and to allow us to move forward without revenge. Which we did. Despite well-funded professional efforts to paint Americans as Islamophobic know-nothings, most Muslims in America probably know that their neighbors aren’t like that. We acknowledge, on the other hand, that it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t spend a lot of time on the images of people in the Middle East dancing in the streets and offering their children candies when they saw the images of New York that day.

They disappeared, in some measure, to keep those who gloated over our agony from having the images as a trophy.

But watch them, please at, because their disappearance also short-circuited some righteous American anger.

Look at the faces and be angry about the lives gone, the families shattered and the innocence lost. Be angry about the potential that those people had to build, work, create, love and live productively. Be angry about children without parents and parents without children. Be angry about the war our enemies brought to us that day and the soldiers who have sacrificed so much – and those gave all they had – since then. Those were our people.

But be proud as well. Be proud of the heroes who, against every known human impulse ran into the buildings. (And no, Mayor Bloomberg, they didn’t do it to protect the Constitution. They did it to save people they didn’t know – but who were their fellows.) Be proud of the firefighters who raised the American flag. Be proud that we didn’t give in to our baser nature and attack people because of their religion – then or now. Be proud that our country produced Todd Beamer. Be proud that our country produced so many brave and loyal Americans who serve in our armed forces and who protect us every day. Those are our people, too.

Watch the images and be angry and be proud to be American.