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Remembering 9/11

This morning, President Barack Obama and his wife laid a wreath at the Pentagon as part of an official observance remembering the events of September 11, 2011. The president also spoke to the families and friends of the victims, remarking that “eleven times we have marked another September 11th come and gone. Eleven times, we have paused in remembrance, in reflection, in unity and in purpose. This is never an easy day.  But it is especially difficult for all of you–the families of nearly 3,000 innocents who lost their lives–your mothers and fathers, your husbands and wives, your sons and your daughters. They were taken from us suddenly and far too soon.”


Peter Skerry and “The Muslim-American Muddle”

Drawing on his work with our “Dialogue on Islam in America,” Peter Skerry has written a thoughtful article on Muslim-American identity in the new edition of National Affairs. Paying special attention to the “enormous diversity” of the Muslim-American population (currently estimated to be about 2.75 million, or less than 1% of the U.S. population), Skerry traces the history of the main Islamic organizations in America and paints a broad picture of their immediate futures. Focusing largely on the competing claims of loyalty that many Muslims face–and the confusion that begets–Perry notes:

The fundamental problem is not disloyalty among Muslim Americans, but their reluctance to confront the implications of the Islamism that has been part of their milieu and that their leaders continue to invoke, however ritualistically or unreflectively. Thus, the primary goal should be to exert constructive pressure, in different ways and to different degrees, on Muslim Americans — leaders and ordinary citizens alike — to “deal with their baggage.” An exemplary step in this direction is the FBI’s policy shift away from contact and cooperation with CAIR. So was the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation. Today, however, the Obama administration is pursuing a more accommodating policy toward Muslim-American organizations. This is regrettable, but in truth there is only so much the government can or should do on this front. The most appropriate and effective source of pressure will be non-governmental actors, especially universities, think tanks, and the media.

If any such substantive engagement with Muslims is to be undertaken, then non-Muslim Americans will need to be much better informed. We must overcome the populist paranoia, fueled by the evasiveness of our elites, that demeans a free people. And rather than obsess over the presumed influence of overseas ties on Muslims in America, we need to be cognizant of how American Muslims have adapted to some of the most dysfunctional aspects of our own politics.

The whole article is well worth reading and thinking about.


Courage and 9/11

At the Daily Caller, Jonathan Horn celebrates the men and women in uniform who have fought in the war on terror. Columnist Rich Lowry also pays tribute to the heroes of 9/11 and the decade after:

Why did Jay Jonas and his unit in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, evacuating as it was on the verge of collapse, stop to carry out a distressed woman even though it slowed their escape? Why did a band of passengers on Flight 93 storm the cockpit of their hijacked plane? Why did Jason Dunham, Ross McGinnis, and Michael Monsoor — all Medal of Honor winners from the Iraq War — throw themselves on grenades to save their comrades?

And finally, the Washington Post tells the incredible story of Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, an F-16 pilot who was faced with the possibility of ramming her plane into one of the hijacked passenger jets.


Teaching 9/11

As the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 September 11 attacks nears, and as we begin to remember and commemorate that day, it becomes important to reflect on how we as a nation will pass down to future generations such remembrances. Seniors in high school this year were 7 or 8 years old at the time of the attacks. Though they have since grown up in a world radically transformed by that day, even these seniors were too young to remember the particular events well—and many of those in younger grades have no memory of the attacks at all. They must be taught. Just like December 7 still retains significance and poignancy for Americans born after 1941, September 11 will be remembered by more than those who were alive in 2001. Memorial traditions, to be traditions, must be handed down.

This is precisely why new research by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) on how 9/11 is taught in schools is so interesting, and important. Their report finds that the first textbooks and curricula that appeared following 9/11 were all very much alike in their presentations of the events: they “presented America as the victim of a uniquely devastating attack and presented rich personal stories of the victims and iconic images of rubble, firefighters, and the American flag.”

With time, though, that view has changed. Textbooks now include briefer, more dispassionate assessments of the events, and many non-textbook curricula invite students to consider deeper level questions relating to the relationship between liberty and safety, how we define  ‘terrorism,’ and what role 9/11 has had in shaping our world since then.

The report and the accompanying fact sheet are interesting in themselves, but are important because of the larger questions they raise: How do we teach and pass on the importance of events like 9/11 to tomorrow’s students and citizens?