'Rehabbing' 9/11

I was reading Melissa’s and Michelle’s excellent pieces on the campaign by the Left to turn 9/11 into a Day of Service. Their posts got me to wondering why it is that liberals can’t leave 9/11 alone, and why their campaign rankles so.

It was then that I realized: the Democrats want to ‘rehab’ 9/11 because for most Americans, 9/11 is all about good and evil. For most Americans, those who killed 3,000 people on that clear, crisp morning were evil. The 19 hijackers were evil. The hundreds who funded them, trained them, supported them, and planned the attack were evil.

Every American adult today remembers what the hijackers did to the crews and passengers on the planes. We remember their ruthlessness and their eagerness to kill and to die. And we remember both their victims and the heroes who were able to resist. We remember the pictures, and the stories – the stories of the heroes who gave their lives for their fellow Americans. We remember the final anguished calls that victims made to their loved ones. I remember those on United Flight 93, whose courage may have saved my life.

This is a story of good and evil.

But for liberals, evil is inconvenient. I won’t claim to know the heart of every liberal, but there are surely many that don’t really believe in evil. For them, some acts may be right or wrong, but the people who commit them aren’t choosing to do evil. Rather, their actions are understandable, given their environment and the circumstances. Killing 3,000 might be a bad decision – it might even be wrong – but the person who commits the act isn’t really any more responsible for the result than the trigger of a gun. Neither really chooses an outcome, and both are better understood as responding to things that happen to them.

And the liberal will tell you that the sooner we understand and respond to the root causes of 9/11, the faster we’ll be able to prevent things like this from happening again. If we can change the environment that produced the hijackers, we can stop tragedies from occurring again. If the American people can accept that, they will eventually see that the hijackers and the masterminds behind them were victims, too. Because who is a greater victim than he whose life is so hopeless that he does something ‘senseless’ like this?

From there, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the very logical idea (from the liberal’s point of view) of making 9/11 a ‘Day of Service.’ It kills several birds with one stone. It gives people (especially the media) another story to focus on for the day. It displaces the memories and the reminders of the evil we are fighting. It sanitizes 9/11 – because people can think about planting trees, instead of the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, and Shanksville. And it also suffuses the entire event with the liberal patina: at its hear, this is really about us doing ‘our part’ to lift up suffering communities and the victims they produce. If enough Americans participate in enough Days of Service, there need be no more 9/11s.

If their campaign to change 9/11 into something useful succeeds, it won’t be long before an American president says something like this:

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

Oh wait. It looks like one already did.

Cross-posted at theconservatives.com