Sometimes evil all by itself is the only explanation for certain human proclivities. I’m referring to, in no particular order, murder for financial gain, rape, racism, child molestation and political terrorism, just to name five. There’s even room to give dishonourable mention to the willing apologists of those same manifestations of evil, including but not limited to the insufferable apostles of Bill Cosby, the knuckle-dragging racist cretins who love Donald Trump and the breathtakingly gullible 9/11 “Truthers.”
But I’m here in the wee hours of September the eleventh to tell you what this day meant to me. If you find a certain resonance and rhyme with my experience then, insofar as this topic goes at least, we are kinfolk of a common grief and a like-minded outrage.
First, to me there is nothing complicated about 9/11. I have no time for any non sequitur tales of Muslim oppression that justly inspired a cabal of fanatics to murder thousands of innocent people without provocation or sane rationales. I’m not interested in their cause, in their history or in their alleged “persecutions.” I’m not interested in their vile trinity of self-righteousness, self-hatred and self-pity. What those 19 totalitarian Islamic idiots did on September 11, 2001, under the absent and therefore craven superintendence of Osama bin Laden, was pure, uncomplicated, unadulterated evil. Period. Take your “Trutherism” and false equivalencies somewhere else. I’m not buying any pencils from that cup today — or any other day.
What is more, that day should have been kept sacred because, before it was sullied by absurd conspiracy theories and the virtue-signalling hypocrisy of masochistic self-blame, it brought us together in a way that has happened only one other time in my life, the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
On that September day and over succeeding days we again became one united people with a common sorrow, a common outrage and a sincere and universal need to unite in our leaden hour of grief. The world held our hand and much of it, the best part of it, grieved with us. For one brief shining moment the events of that day transformed our world into the best of what we should have remained ever since.
The terrorist attack of September 11 was also an assault on my favourite city in the world, one I had been to literally hundreds of times before. It was, therefore, very personal to me. But I hasten to acknowledge it was just as personal to someone living in, say, Point Barrow, Alaska.
Because I claim no special kinship to New York City. Everyone after that day, no matter who they were or where they lived, had a right to co-opt New York citizenship. Such was the universal magnanimity bestowed to all feeling peoples everywhere after that shocking Tuesday in September.
Just as surely as the events of that day represented an attack on a city I loved, they also symbolised the embodiment of that which I most hate: religious tyranny, fundamentalism, unsmiling, unsympathetic intolerance of the world’s many differences. Murder of the innocent and the elevation of superstition was the order of that day, the consequence of a minority of Muslim extrimists’ solipsistic, hypocritical self-justification. It was a lethal challenge to free expression. It was evil. It is not and has never been any more complicated than that.
Then the self-assaults began, with the “Reverends” Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson suggesting that 9/11 was God’s vengeance on us for our godlessness. The self-assaults continued with the hateful, absurdly masochistic idea that we were somehow complicit in that wholly unjustified act of terroristic evil because of direct involvement of our government or because of our policies in the Middle East.
Those lies were hateful enough. But I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever see 9/11 re-enacted again and again by the supposedly most patriotic guardians of our democracy some 15 years later.
We were attacked on 9/11 by religious fundamentalists in thrall to a single coward, Osama bin Laden, who was the author and finisher of the hate he kept alive. It is inexplicable to me today that we could have all witnessed such a thing and remained, some of us, vulnerable to a resurrection of the misanthropy that brought us 9/11.
That same stripe of absurd illogic resurfaced in the person of Donald Trump and his equivalent hatreds and intolerances. It resurfaced in the form of the one man rule and the one party rule and the one god rule. Trump is our new Osama bin Laden, but unlike that terrible day his hatred and malign influence never seems to end. Trump is living proof that some of us learned absolutely nothing from that day in history.
I will therefore not be instructed about the sacredness of 9/11 from Trump, his misbegotten children or his MAGA cult. This is a day that is sacred for the best of us. MAGA morons need not apply. They have found and followed their very own Osama bin Trump. They couldn’t beat them so they joined them because they are weak, stupid and, again, they have learned nothing from history.
I choose to commemorate this day instead by recollections of my first trip to England less than three months after the attack, and the kind and sympathetic reception I received there. In the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death it’s particularly poignant to recall that, for the first time in history, two days after 9/11 she ordered that America’s national anthem be played during the changing of the guard. She also reminded us in her address to the people of New York that “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
I recall the American flags that sprang up everywhere, on every street in America, reminding us that we are the *United* States of America first before anything else. Those uncomplicated expressions of patriotism were unsullied by Confederate flags or Nazi flags or MAGA hats or Trump flags. They invited all Americans and world citizens to come grieve with us and stand together against the forces of evil.
That is the September 11th I choose to remember, the September 11th I choose to commemorate. And for the kindred spirits still remaining, it is my privilege to commemorate that sad and sacred day with you as well.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.