Saturday, September 15, 2007

What counts

A Zogby poll finds that 81 percent of Americans say that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were the most significant historical event of their lives.

Can that be? I have always thought that the most significant historical event of my life was the collapse of the Soviet Union. That's the only thing that has happened in my life, I suspect, that had both the scale and significance of World War II (which I can't put on my list because I'm not quite that old).

I'm not sure I would even put the 9-11 attacks as No. 2. Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, the first moon landing -- those all have to be up there pretty high. Then no doubt a thing or two has surely happened in my life that has significance I can't yet fully appreciate. All those Nigerian philanthropists, for example.

The commonplace that Sept. 11 changed everything has always seemed wrong to me. We already knew that the world contained terrorists, and that they wanted to kill us, and even that the World Trade Center was a favored target. Sept. 11 certainly made us take the threat more seriously, but it didn't change the nature of the threat in any major way.

What am I missing?


Anonymous said...

What are you missing? Reality, that’s all.

Like so many liberals, you are forced to deny the significance of the 9-11 attacks because you have taken a position against the president and his efforts to combat terrorism. So you must deemphasize the importance the 9-11 attacks in your mind in order to emphasize your hatred of the president. Obviously, this misdirection of your hatred would be redirected toward its proper target if you stopped denying the significance--indeed, the reality--of the 9-11 attacks.

Shane C. Mason said...

You are missing the daily pounding that nothing is more important than 9/11.

Anonymous said...

What are you missing? Only the litany of events leading up to 9/11. When you see only one side, it seems like an aberration. It's significance? They did it to us, for once.

As far as I can tell, the Kennedy Assassination didn't change a thing, and was not significant.

David said...

Anonymous 805,

A perfectly idiotic response.

1. I don't deny that the 9-11 attacks are significant. I deny only that they are the most significant event of my lifetime.

2. I oppose the president's efforts to combat terrorism not because I don't believe terrorism is important but because I believe his approach is simple-minded and wrongheaded. Call me old-fashioned, but I still think we should be going after Osama Bin Laden, not nation building in a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on us. How that notion translates into your head as a liberal idea is beyond my comprehension. On Sept. 12, 2001, the whole world agreed with me.

3. I don't hate the president. That's just a flat lie. I do think he is a bad president, but that doesn't make me hate him. I don't hate Warren G. Harding either.

4. To suggest that I deny the reality of the 9-11 attacks is an even bigger lie.

Is it possible for you to get anything right? Or are you too blinded by your own hatred to ever allow reality to penetrate your world?

Mark T,
I'm not sure I get your point. I was trying to say that I don't see 9-11 as an aberration, just an attack larger in scale and scope than other attacks made on the U.S. and other western countries. It certainly wasn't the first time they did it to us.

I also think you are wrong about the Kennedy assassination. His death was followed by a decade of the greatest social unrest in the U.S. since the Civil War. His assassination wasn't the sole cause, obviously, but I believe it played a significant part.

Ed said...

I think the reason 81 percent named 9/11 is the same reason most teen-agers, asked to name their favorite movie, pick last week's action blockbuster: it's the only one they can remember.

David said...

Good point.

Anonymous said...

No dumbarsed military men who placed American military bases in Saudi Arabia means no Osama bin Laden seeking revenge means no 9-11 means no "war" in Iraq! It's all right there! The U.S. PROVOKED this entire chain of events! And they found lots of useful idiots to further their cause, like the biggest idiot of all, georgie bush! (need proof? name one OTHER president of the u.s. referred to as a "moron" by a member of the Canadian premier's staff! can't be done. georgie is the dumbest world leader of modern times) Terrorism is simply blowback by a diferent name.


Chuck Rightmire said...

Well, David, since I remember the tensions of Dec. 7, 1941, and the days that followed, including hiding in a flat with mattresses against the windows to protect us against the only serious air raid warning in the U.S during WWII, I agree with you on 9/11 not being the most significant thing in my lifetime. In today's world, I agree with Ed that it was just the latest blow. The world has changed significantly in the last 72 years and there have been many key and significant points. From where we are now, I'm not sure any were more significant than the other. For instance, how do WWII and 9/11 compare to the changes in our psychology brought by the computer? That may be far more significant than either in the long run. How about the uncovering of DNA and the potential changes in humans that may come from that? We can only guess what the future may rank as significant. Let us go back to the 19th Century. What from the historical viewpoint and its impact on today was more significant: the taming and populating of the western frontier, the Civil War, the development of the industrial complex, the telephone? Pearl Harbor was not significant in itself, only in the impact it had on the years that followed and the development of more elements of humanity in this nation. 9/11 has no influence in the present except for what it will cause in the future. And since I think one of the greatest significant points so far in this so-called war in terror was the abandonment of that war for our current mess in Iraq, the most significant moment in recent history may be the day of that invasion rather than 9/11. That was the day we abandoned our defense of our nation to get into what even Greenspan today called a war for oil.

6 Generations said...

I don't know how the poll question was worded, but in your description of the poll, these words stood out to me: "in your lives." Those words make the question about the most significant"historical event" very personal. So I suspect people were thinking of their lives when they answered, not of long-term historical impact. The younger respondents wouldn't even remember much of the fall of Communism. I'm two months short of fifty years old, so I missed WWII, and I was a toddler when Kennedy was assassinated. I was a teenager when the U. S. left Vietnam. So there's the age factor in the responses.

In addition, don't most people tend to remember more vividly horror over happiness? The fall of communism, the moon landing--those were positive events. And the collapse of the Soviet Union doesn't bring to mind vivid images like those planes flying into the Twin Towers.

Knowing that someone wants to kill you is not the same as watchingthose skyscrapers collapse with thousands of people trapped inside. So the power of images affects our responses to such questions.

It's not just 9/11, the terrorist attack, that seems so significant. It's everything that followed. I would have to agree with 81 percent of those respondents. The events of 9/11 and the subsequent decisions made by our government radicalized me as no other event in my lifetime has done.

David said...

6 generations,
You make good points, but there is a vivid memory to me of the Soviet Union's fall. That was watching all those Berliners celebrating at the wall, pounding it to dust.

I watched for hours. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

Anonymous said...

You said: "I'm not sure I get your point. I was trying to say that I don't see 9-11 as an aberration, just an attack larger in scale and scope than other attacks made on the U.S. and other western countries. It certainly wasn't the first time they did it to us.

Good point, if you discount history since World War II. Where you been, son? We've been doing all kinds of stuff to them, but you prove Orwell's point - "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

You said: "I also think you are wrong about the Kennedy assassination. His death was followed by a decade of the greatest social unrest in the U.S. since the Civil War. His assassination wasn't the sole cause, obviously, but I believe it played a significant part."

These events happening one after the other could well have been mere coincidence. I think it was. I think you should look to the Vietnam War as a cause, and forget Kennedy.

David said...

Before, I wasn't sure I got your point. Now I am quite sure that I don't. Maybe it's because I haven't had much sleep this week. Please elucidate, in language a tired man can understand.

David said...

BTW, with respect to Kennedy, I think his assassination had a great deal to do with the course that war took. So I would count Vietnam not as a separate cause but as a related one.

Anonymous said...

David - you framed your argument in terms of what "they" had done to "us". In this regard, you pointed at 9/11 in a vacuum, and ignored all that has been going on between the US and the Arab world since the end of World War II. I won't detail, as it doesn't seen to register - you're oddly vacant on this matter. Anyway, the scales are heavily tipped in our favor. Put it this way - the US has killed far more Iraqis than Saddam ever dreamed of. In his wettest of dreams.

9/11 was the first time they did something to us on our soil. They killed 2900 of us. That's something we routinely do to them, twice before breakfast. Can the outrage.

The Kennedy argument is unwinnable - I don't think he was all that special. His death was emotional, but from a political standpoint, changed nothing.

You say his assassination gave us the sixties, I say that would have happened without him, that TV's first exposure of the reality of war woke us up.

But then again, we're probalby both wrong. It was all caused by the Beatles.

David said...

Mark, The argument was framed in terms of a discussion of the most significant historical event in our lifetimes. Most people say 9-11; I say the collapse of the Soviet Union.

You say ... what, exactly? That the most significant event was some unspecified act of American aggression against Muslims? OK, I'm game, but could we have a nomination from the floor?

Or maybe you are saying something else entirely. Something about the Beatles, probably.