That all changed as the response from Bush and Co. began to take shape. Instead of beginning a national conversation, they urged everyone to go shopping. And they began pushing for war. Worse, the "with us or against us" dynamic emerged, splitting the sense of unity I think most of us felt. I remember quite clearly that the flags on the cars in my community began to feel less like a recognition of a traumatic experience we had all shared and more like jingoistic support for Bush's militarism. I removed my flag, as did many others, and the flags that remained were inevitably displayed by people who also were strong supporters of Bush.
And to this day, I remain conflicted about how to feel about 9/11. After the attacks there was a moment when we might have been able to move forward in some productive directions, to tackle some really difficult issues, with a unified sense of purpose. This moment was replaced with political division and hostility toward dissent. So it's not that I feel that the right owns 9/11. I feel that the right corrupted a precious opportunity for real progress. And we're still paying the price, not only for the lost opportunity, but also for the effects of the dreadful actions that 9/11 gave rise to.
It's hard to commemorate 9/11 without being overwhelmed by disappointment and frustration about the awful stuff that followed.
And from TPM Reader LF ...
I have been a reader since the (very) early days but haven't ever emailed you before. Like your wife, I worked in the World Financial Center on 9/11. I exited the subway at about 8:55 and witnessed and fled the 2nd impact from across the street. If you are interested, you can read more here.
I left New York in 2002 and never returned to my WFC office before the building reopened. I've lived since then in Boston, Alaska, Washington, DC, and now Oregon. As time goes by the national trauma has receded, a lot, so being away from the Northeast makes each anniversary more difficult. It just doesn't occur to most people on the West Coast that the anniversary would be traumatic. For the general population, I think that is healthy, but for survivors and witnesses of the event it is increasingly isolating to go from the embrace of a larger community to having to act like everything is normal. This year I just took the day off and played with our baby and watched the History Channel documentaries because they validated my experience.
At a political level, Bush and Rove's instant politicization of the issue did all of us a great disservice. The way they used 9/11 as a cudgel did reinforce the idea that it is owned by the right. But it's also of a piece with the "fly the flag" days of Nixon.