The opinion writers at the WSJ are, predictably, fulminating over the upcoming trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed et alia in NYC. Whatever you think about that, one of them made an excellent point about our nation’s fecklessness with a photograph and a sharp couple of paragraphs:
The third way to consider the trials is to look at Ground Zero itself. After eight years of deliberation, planning, money and effort, what have we got? The picture nearby is the answer.
Let me be more precise. After eight years in which the views and interests of, inter alia, the Port Authority, NYPD, MTA and EPA, the several governors of New York and New Jersey, lease-holder Larry Silverstein, various star architects, the insurance companies, contractors, unions and lawyers, the families of the bereaved, their self-appointed spokespersons, the residents of lower Manhattan and, yes, even the fish of the Hudson river have all been duly consulted and considered, this is what we’ve got: a site of mourning turned into a symbol of defiance turned into a metaphor of American incompetence — of things not going forward. It is, in short, the story of our decade.
By failing to quickly decide what to do at that site and then DO it, our nation has shown its weakness — the flaws that come inevitably with being a liberal democracy riven with partisan and cultural conflicts, a society that values everyone having their say more than going ahead and getting things done.
Some of these things about our country I would not change; others I would. The thing is, a liberal democracy CAN get its act together. This was a pretty great country back in 1941-45, and yet we managed to pull ourselves together after Pearl Harbor and build and operate a towering war machine that quickly eclipsed the ones that Germany and Japan had been building for two decades. Those militaristic and fascistic countries underestimated us then, thinking we were too soft and divided in our purposes to defeat nations as focused as they were.
Today, fanatics who are willing to die for their cause think we are too soft, comfort-loving, life-loving, indecisive and ineffectual to defeat them. Failing to rebuild and move on at Ground Zero — allowing their act of terror to leave us in a state of paralysis at that site for eight years — speaks volumes about our dysfunction, and makes them look right. I mean, what do you say about a country that goes into paroxysms over something as obvious as the need for health care reform — or the need to rebuild at Ground Zero?
It’s not that we don’t know how to design something and build it. We’re great at that. We just can’t decide what to build, and that is just one among many effects of the fact that, as a nation, we still haven’t been able to get together on HOW we want to respond to 9/11.
Is a nation that divided and confused capable of continuing (is it capable, for instance, of summoning the energy to overcome our economic crisis so that I can get a job, just to bring it down to the personal level)? Or are we all washed up? Or is the answer somewhere in between, and if so, precisely where?