Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Generation Removed

I have been going back and forth, right up to this point, as to if I wanted to make a post today. If I did make one I was not sure what to title it or what the tone of it would be. I guess I will be figuring that out as we go along. I will not be proofreading so this may wind up somewhat disjointed and rambling, but putting ones thoughts on "paper" can be a helpful thing.

Today is a somber day. I find it very hard to believe that it has now been twenty years since September 11, 2001. The events of that day have been seared in my memory. I can only imagine how much more so that is for those who were close to the attacks or suffered loss directly. After the initial shock and horror of that day, there was a very comforting feeling of national unity. Congress joined together, Democrats and Republicans alike, to sing "God Bless America" on the Capitol steps that day, and our then President, whose election had been controversial, rose to the occasion as a leader in the aftermath in a way that even his harshest critics gave him credit.

To paraphrase a famous television sitcom theme song, "we could use a man like George W. Bush again."

Today, America feels as divided as ever. The people most vocal about politics are firmly divided into tribes. We still face the damage of a global pandemic. Just a few short months ago, there was the belief that it was all but over, but people are continuing to die every day in numbers comparable to the lives lost on 9/11.

Innocent victims met their fate that day and while we should certainly mourn the loss of any American, those that are dying of Covid are almost all unvaccinated. It is hard to understand why so many people continue to be so stubborn and so foolish. Politics plays a part for some, but not all. Many on the left seem to embrace the narrative of thinking that all the vaccine resisters are Trump supporters. Yes, many are, but certainly not all. This feels more like a political football for them then genuine concern over their fellow man and that is sad as well.

Last year, late in the game, I made the decision to vote for Joe Biden in the Presidential general election. I knew that I disagreed with him on a ton and that I would almost certainly oppose many aspects of his Presidency. However, he was running against Donald Trump. Needless to say, I do not have one milligram of regret for not voting for Trump. He was and remains a cancer on our nation and civilization. There are literally not enough words to convey how terrible he was for America and how dangerous his influence remains both for the country and for the political party I was once proud to belong to.

Nonetheless, I now feel I was wrong to personally vote for Biden. It will not be a mistake I make again. I gave him a chance in his first few months in office and did not have too much to complain about. His actions this past summer though have profoundly disappointed me. I thought he understood that he became President, simply because he was not Donald Trump. His charge was to try to unite the country as much as possible and above all to defeat the virus. He was very lucky to be President, after nearly 50 years of seeking the office to some extent. It is clear that Biden, even at his advanced age, thinks of himself as another FDR.

He has overreached on domestic matters and social issues which did not come as too much of a surprise. I suppose I should be glad he has not attempted to pack the court or support eliminating the filibuster.. at least not yet. That is pretty much par for the course though. He got way out ahead in declaring victory over the virus and leading us intelligent vaccinated people in tossing away the masks that we wore without complaint before vaccines are available but now feel suckered into having to wear again. The failure to lead a successful campaign to get more people vaccinated is not all his fault, but the messages and tone of his Administration contributed to this loss. In particular, the push for masks again I believe hurt the efforts to convince holdouts to get vaccinated. 

I completely relate to and understand the frustration that so many Americans are feeling about the dangers the unvaccinated are putting people in, especially children too young to have been approved for the vaccine. The speech given a few days ago by Biden was nothing short of chilling though as he announced plans for sweeping mandates on people and private businesses.

Again, let me be clear. Anybody eligible who is not vaccinated is a huge part of the problem but this is still a free country. Authoritarianism was wrong under Trump and it is wrong under Biden, even as the tribalists cheered it for both men. Private business should have every right to impose vaccine requirements on their employees and anything else they feel is necessary to properly conduct their affairs during a pandemic. The federal government should not have the power to force private businesses to do that though. It seems a simple concept that anybody with a basic understanding of the Constitution should understand. Politicians on both parties are playing a dangerous game regarding masks and vaccines. These decisions, if they have to be made by government at all, should be done at the local level, in cities, towns, local school boards, etc. Preening Governors and flailing Presidents should stand back.

The overall tone of Biden's speech this past week was terrible and divisive. It is going many people to dig in and fight even harder about getting themselves or their loved ones vaccinated. Some may now get the shot under pressure or fear of losing their job, but there will be court challenges, and these mandates are quite unlikely to be held up. People on the winning side will declare victory and people on the losing side will complain. Those that applaud Biden for pushing efforts that they believe are for the public good but deep down realize are likely Unconstitutional are wrong, just like the people who supported Trump were.  I remember how loud some people were in opposing the Patriot Act and other measures after 9/11. Somewhere, consistency and principle have been lost.

I could go on at great length about Afghanistan and how our recent failures there lead to this anniversary of 9/11 being all the more somber. I believe it was wrong to leave Afghanistan and allow the Taliban to take over and exert their brutality over innocent men, women, and children. I can understand though that there are those who disagree and that sort of debate is what we honor as Americans. Trump was gung-ho in getting us out of Afghanistan and wanted to bring the Taliban to Camp David last year on September 11 for a photo-op. Those who now vocally complain about Biden and Afghanistan who supported Trump on this really have no room to talk, unless they are willing to admit they were wrong. There are only a handful of consistent people in politics these days who have spoken out against Biden's recent actions, since as Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger who have the legitimate right to claim their principles have not wavered on this issue just because of partisan politics.

Ultimately though, the tragedy was not so much about leaving itself but by the botched and disgraceful way we left. There are valid debates to be had about the macro policy but there should not be any argument that what happened in Afghanistan in recent weeks should not have happened the way it did. Biden and his backers have continuously tried to change the subject towards the broader issue of "forever wars." It boils down to the fact that Biden ignored sound military advice, ignored our allies, and stubbornly embarked on a course of action he felt was right, going back to his private disagreements with Barack Obama, while Biden was Vice President. When conditions on the ground in terms of American allies and citizens changed in regards to the immediate need to get them out of Afghanistan, Biden pushed ahead with a failed strategy, instead of admitting wrong and changing course. It reminds me so much of Trump failing on Covid just to save his political narrative. In many ways, Biden has proven himself to be way too much like Trump.

Of course, Biden claims he had no choice but to leave Afghanistan in this way because of Trump's "deal." Of course he did. He beat Trump and became Commander in Chief. He is undoing (for better or worse) many other things that Trump Administration put into effect. Trump loyalists and the disgraced former President himself hypocritically try to use this debacle for America to their advantage. Things might have gone better in terms of getting our people out under Trump but they might have gone even worse too. Wrong is wrong and bad is bad either way. Biden is President now, not Trump, and he should be taking responsibility for this national embarrassment. Even more surprising to me is the way the famously empathetic political figure seems to have so little regard as to what will become of the Afghan people or how this all feels to our veterans who served there going back 20 years. He is stubbornly focused on his narrative of everything have gone as well as could be expected.. just like Trump acted.

America will endure though and there will be future elections. I do not know how much the American people truly care about foreign policy matters and the War on Terror after the years of Obama, Trump, and now Biden. Many people expect the GOP to have a very strong 2022 midterm election. That remains to be seen. Trumpism is still a very politically dangerous thing for Republicans to embrace in many parts of the country, and for good reason. I wish there was a better alternative but that is not the case in today's Democrat Party either. Many people like me held our nose and voted for Biden, simply to be rid of Trump. We got what we wanted in that one regard but are also getting far from what we expected. All I can do now is hope that Republicans like Cheney and Kinzinger find a way to stay in office and help lead the GOP back to sanity. I can also hope that Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema are not totally ostracized from their party.

Through it all I will choose to be optimistic on 9/11/21 that we have not had a "lost generation" and that America is still great, even when it feels like it is coming apart at the seams. I only caught a few minutes today of the speech given by President George W. Bush at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I know that so many tribalists on both the left and the right have no use for him these days or attempts to bring about unity or civility. His message stands in stark contrast to their agenda, mostly seen in angry online Tweets, comments, and posts where the only objective is "owning" the political opposition.

GWB made note of this division today in his remarks. He said he had no explanation or solution. I admire the candor and cannot help but find it truthful. He looked back on what happened in America on that fateful day a generation ago, when we as a people did come together, for at least a short time, amid the greatest single tragedy we had ever faced. The man who was President on that day spoke in honor of the heroes of Flight 93 who at the cost of their lives, won the first battle in the War on Terror. Twenty years later the pride is still immense in hearing their story and how their resolve and courage surprised and scared their killers and prevented far more destruction from occurring.

President Bush spoke of this "random group of Americans" on Flight 93 and how our enemies never expected them to band together in such a way. Today, the enemies of America, still feel that way, and after our disgraceful exit from Afghanistan, orchestrated not by our brave and noble military, but by misguided political figures from both parties. 

We need to hope and pray that those enemies are wrong though and that when faced with a similar set of circumstances, any random group of Americans would act with the same determination and unity. Long after Trump and Biden and all of us are gone from the scene, America needs to survive and endure, like we did after a September day a generation back.


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