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Monday, September 11, 2006

The Measure of a Day

The danger of remembering what happened five years ago is the danger that memory will triumph over understanding. To say we remember where we were — what we saw, what we heard, what we felt — is to say little more than that on September 11, 2001, we were sentient beings. What do we see today? This is the question that matters. "America is at war." We'll hear these words in the background of today's public memories. For many of us the words won't quite register. "Radical Islam is at war with America." We'll hear these words, too. The meaning of the two sentences is identical. Taking the full measure of this day means letting real meaning sink in. To encourage full comprehension, it helps to add a few more sentences. First: "I am an American." Then: "America is at war with radical Islam." One more: "We will win this war, because the very heart and soul of America makes any other outcome unthinkable." As Americans, we are at war with a grotesque ideology that goes by the name of radical Islam. This ideology leaves no guessing room about its intention to murder anyone and everyone who refuses to vow allegiance to to its quest for global empire. If your impulse is to parse the preceding sentence, at best you're living in nostalgia. Second best, you're in the same kind of denial by which reasonable, misguided, tragically naive people allowed Hitler to get as far as he got. Third alternative: perhaps you're among those who can't help blaming America for everything that goes wrong in the world. If so, radical anti-Western jihad is the latest festival of opportunity to encourage the enemy of your enemy. Be warned: totalitarians invariably reserve special vengeance for the "useful idiots" whose sympathies they no longer require. Please don't take it personally when the butchers come at you with machetes rather than thanking you for your help. It's just so hard to cotton up to people who betray their own countrymen. Five years later, certain familiar truisms bear repeating, such as: Not every Muslim supports radical global jihad. That said, today's a good time for less familiar truisms to become more so: Muslims who in the solitude of their hearts and minds dissent from radical global Islamist ideology do so by carving out some interior exemption, some manner of personal "This doesn't apply to me" haven of denial. Such Muslims, Canadian author Irshad Manji observes, pretend that "Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism." Fairy tales take many forms. Americans who are religious, no matter what faith; Americans who are secular; Americans who answer "spiritual but not religious" — any and all who give ourselves over to sad memories of what happened five years ago, without coming to terms with the need to destroy this enemy, are living a fairy tale. Voters who believe a Democrat-led congress will make America safer by forcing America to abandon Iraq are Neville Churchill's unweaned children. Homework assignment: If the word caliphate is not part of your everyday vocabulary, make sure it is before your head hits the pillow tonight after all of today's commemorations. (It will be on the test, and the test won't be paper-pencil.) Working definition: Radical Islamists are not simply permitted but required by religious sanction to use any means necessary — agreeing to "truces," signing "treaties" — to achieve the end of killing every Christian, every Jew, every secular Westerner, including every "moderate" Muslim who stands in their way of global Islamic domination. Hell, yes. I remember 9/11/2001. Can I can tell you exactly where I was and how it hit me? With riveting, aching detail. What I saw, heard, felt, all of it. So can you; we have that in common. Let's agree, you and me, to keep those remembrances to ourselves, especially today. Suppose we agree to have the harder conversation, that one that starts with: Though we would like to believe otherwise, we are in a war for our survival against an enemy that spends every waking moment to plotting to destroy us as they did 3,000 of our fellows five years ago. I hate war. Even more I hate those who foist it upon others, and that is what radical jihad means in our time. When our collective memories are synonymous with that realization, we'll be on the right track. Those who died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania deserve our remembrance. But they deserve so much more. They gave blood and today many of us give tears. They also deserve our sweat — our willingness to give everything we've got to defend the teeming, freedom-loving, unapologetically creative nation that the fanatical savages hate not least because we to love it and dare to call it home. We are Americans. "Let's roll."