I'm Getting Awfully Tired of Apologizing For America

20 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Virginia Department of Education tries to paper over what happened. Let's not do that, please.

EDITORS NOTE: I had written this over a week ago and bounced it around to friends and family before choosing to publish this morning. I should take a moment to make a few things very clear.

First and foremost, most if not the vast majority of Muslims have nothing but contempt for al-Qaeda, ISIL, and the machinations of the Taliban. Muslim-Americans have enjoyed a prominent role in American society for decades as our ideas of the “other” expanded from other European nations to the Jeffersonian “empire of liberty” — especially as the Ottoman Empire began to dissolve and finally collapse. My own family on my mother’s side is from Lebanese Christian descent with its own history and background. Draw from that what you will.

Second and perhaps more heartfelt, I have several Muslim friends and relations that I consider very dear and very close. That is not the wild card of tokenism. If there is anything in this construed negatively, please ascribe it to ignorance rather than malice and an IOU for coffee to discuss that ignorance.

Hanlon’s Razor applies.

Nevertheless, there are several very core and root distinctions between the Christian West, the secular West and the Muslim world that are indeed disagreements and worthy of dispute. The development of doctrine in Islam, the role of violence, and the propriety of taqiyya (casuistry) are among a few. Among these points of contention will be the commemoration of September 11th on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks — and how it should be remembered.

My own exposition — in shock and bewilderment — follows below. — SVK


I am not particularly interested in apologizing for September 11th.

Yet Equity Virginia would prefer you be culturally sensitive on 9/11 because — you know — there’s anti-Muslim sentiment out there and Americans should properly cage 9/11 to be anything but what it was.

Let’s be crystal clear about what 9/11 was.

The events of September 11th were an unprovoked terrorist attack carried out by a fanatical Islamist organization called Al-Qaeda (The Base) led by Osama Bin Laden, motivated by the teachings of Sayd Qtub and the Muslim Brotherhood, in which 19 terrorists succeeded in putting three planes into three buildings and killed 2,977 Americans and all 19 Islamist terrorists.

Was every Muslim responsible for 9/11? NO.

Are violent organizations which claim the mantle of Islam such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Hezbollah and a host of other smaller parasite organizations motivated by jihadism responsible?

ABSOLUTELY.

There has been no shortage of serious ecumenical and intellectual conversation about the link between Islam and violence — or the nature of power, violence and ideological fervor whether it is secular or sacred — in the wake of 9/11. One rushes to think of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg Address, where Benedict argued two salient points: (1) that God is reasonable because he is the author of reason — in the Christian tradition, the logos become flesh (John 1) and (2) that violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

The reaction of the Muslim world? Violence and riots. Vatican ambassadors were recalled throughout the Muslim world. Security at the Vatican was increased in the weeks after the address. Protesters outside of Westminster Cathedral called for the beheading of the Holy Father. One Catholic priest in Iraq was taken prisoner by a terrorist group and demanded an apology and $350,000 in ransom.

Three days later, they killed the priest anyway.

Despite apologies from the Vatican during Benedict’s Angelus address some days later, the apologies were not enough. It was almost as if Benedict was right after all…

Grappling With 9/11 — 20 Years Later

There is nothing more difficult than talking about 9/11. Too many words and you lose people; too few words and the “yes but” and “ayckschually” set just pounce on anything you miss. Those who look for disagreement — or worse — are eager and willing to use charged words such as racism or bigotry to get an extra point against anyone with whom they disagree — especially in politics.

So I am most likely going to anger some portion of the non-thinking mob.

Good.

For those of you who appreciate a bit of nuance? Let me cut to the chase here with something that I think most of us grasp, but too few of us can say in public because of the climate of fear the blue checkmarks and the media put around 9/11.

  1. Try as one might, it remains difficult if not impossible to separate the influence of militant Islam from the events of 9/11. This is a cultural and religious debate that is ongoing within the Muslim faith. None of this excuses the long history between Islam and the West, nor is it a distraction from very real pressures in the Middle East and the wider post-Ottoman Muslim world.

  2. September 11th was an unprovoked attack against the United States of America and remains the definition of a terrorist attack. Osama Bin Laden wanted to attack the very fundamentals of American exceptionalism that day and break us apart — to make us live in a climate of fear. Perhaps OBL succeeded to some degree, but that doesn’t mean that Americans who still believe in what the Founders envisioned do not resent that attack in the deepest possible ways.

  3. The 9/11 terrorists attacks should be universally and unequivocally condemned — PERIOD. There is no contextualization one can adequately provide, there is no yes, but! that will suffice.

  4. Sayd Qutb’s beliefs are not fringe beliefs, nor is militant Islam an exception to the rule. People forget rather quickly that the Muslim Brotherhood — which Qutb inspired after a stint as a professor at the University of Northern Colorado in the 1950s — won elections in Egypt after the fall of the Mubarak government and that the United States presently supports the presence of a military dictatorship to keep the Muslim Brotherhood down. The Palestinian Arabs refuse to hold free and fair elections because Hamas will beat Fatah in free and fair elections. Hezbollah already wants to rip up the 1989 T’aif Accords keeping the peace in Lebanon because they know that their Shia majority obtain a governing majority in free and fair elections — perhaps even outright. Turkey’s Erdogan has won several elections — free and fair (let’s not press too hard on threats of violence and an open press when MSNBC, CNN, and an openly leftist media refuse to consider any conservative voices as legitimate). Is Iraq not a functioning democracy? Even the Islamic State of Iran functions as an Islamic democracy — just not up to secular Western standards, that is.

  5. Muslim Americans are grappling with these realities and should be allowed to grapple with these realities openly and without judgment. Aha! — the hard part! This means that Americans need to understand that Muslim Americans feel equal outrage at the 9/11 attacks, have bled to defend this country against militant Islam in a unique way, and that they are not just mere allies in the fight — they are us as part of the body politic in every sense that our hand or eyes are part of us. In short — indispensable.

  6. The enemy is and will always be binary thinking. There is no them to fight; there is violence. There is no us to defend; there is only the true, beautiful and good.

Charles Bukowski isn’t exactly my favorite poet — personally I find him somewhat crude and abstract, but he does touch on certain parts of the human character worth considering:

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

These are not distinct problems of any one faith. But there are certain ideologies and belief systems that can feed such problems. We all grapple with them in our own ways, but let us not be deaf or blind to the manner in which some systems feed these problems with shortcuts — and violence and coercion is always a shortcut — rather than solutions.

Beware The Preachers; Beware The Knowers

First and foremost, let’s recognize that are people out there who simply hate Arabs and hate Muslims. Not a ton. This hate takes many forms, from the outright racism that pulls kids out of the path of anyone wearing a niqab to the condescending leftist paternalism that buries terrorists in Muslim gravesites against the wishes of the Muslim community themselves.

Seriously — THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

Imam Ammar Amonette, of the Islamic Center of Virginia, said that his group was never consulted and that Mullen had reached out to a separate group, the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond.

"The whole Muslim community here is furious. Frankly, we are furious that we were never given any information. It was all done secretly behind our backs," Amonette said, adding that it "makes no sense whatsoever" that Tsarnaev's body was buried in Virginia.

"Now everybody who's buried in that cemetery, their loved ones are going to have to go to that place," he said.

Now I’m sorry — but that’s just hateful to impose upon a community something they never asked for and did want because someone else’s secularized leftism decided that well, that’s what Jesus would want.

Uh-huh.

This is the sort of prejudice that claims to be an ally, but in truth is just another one of those condescending liberals who see every minority as a child to be scolded or appeased — because they are just better than the rest of us.

Which is how presentations from organizations such as Equity Virginia can be introduced into Loudoun County Public Schools right under the noses of parents — because they just know better than you do:

(NOTE: Unavailable because the Virginia Department of Education deleted it the week before September 11th).

In this presentation, your teachers are being told:

  • To push away false assumptions of Muslim responsibility for 9/11,

  • To stop the reproduction of anti-Muslim rhetoric,

  • To push away US foreign policy analysis (?!)

  • To push out the idea of American exceptionalism.

The way most disinformation campaigns work is rather simple. You begin with an outrageous premise, introduce a dollop of truth, and then from that dollop use a series of if A, then B claims to get people to M and then N in order to defend the indefensible.

Here’s how it works for Equity Virginia:

  1. We need culturally inclusive and responsive commemorations on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. (I mean, I guess?)

  2. Anti-Muslim sentiment on 9/11 is bad, right? (Well of course it is! 9/11 impacted all Americans, we should never allow that to divid—)

  3. So let’s gloss over the dead, what happened that day, absolutely not talk about what influenced the terrorists on 9/11, refuse to condemn 9/11, and above all else not create a single narrative about what happened on 9/11. (wait — what??)

  4. …or else you’re just creating the environment for anti-Muslim racism if you do not kneel to our demands. (wait — I thought Islam was a faith not a rac—)

  5. So remember that teaching is a political act and you have a moral duty to scold your students with good thought rather than free thought! (hold up — teaching isn’t about imposing values whether they were secular or sacred, right — didn’t we sort this out with Thomas Jefferson?!)

If you guessed that? You guessed wrong.

Conflating those three? Teach your kids that commemorating 9/11 is racism.

I’m sorry.

I reject that premise entirely.

September 11th was a terrorist attack committed by militant Islamists, inspired by a fundamental reading of Islam supported by organizations that hold political majorities in parts of the Muslim world.

This may be an point of regret. It is unfortunately not an item for either discussion or dispute, as Pope Benedict XVI painfully learned.

Obviously, one should not question the sincerity of either Dr. Amaarah DeCuir or the Virginia Department of Education as they are trying to tackle a very real and serious problem — anti-Muslim sentiment directed against Muslim Americans on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

What one should question — and I believe, rightly so — is the additional effort to subtract culpability from militant Islam. Or worse, to cage any discussion of Islam and violence as having a source in bigotry or disrespect. Clearly there are deep theological and philosophical differences between the Christian tradition and the Islamic tradition. We should have the courage to examine the virtues and vices of both while admitting that there are indeed virtues and vices in cultural understandings of the divine.

How hard is this? Apparently very hard. Islam as a racial identity? Come on… that’s just a shortcut away from thought and towards emotion. Teaching as a political act? Dr. DeCuir closes with this afterthought:

So in closing, I'd like to name three things for all of you as we wrap up this conversation about advancing cultural responsive and inclusive teaching for 9/11 lessons. One, teaching is a political act. There is no other way to say it. When you look at the root word 'political' don't just go into this binary of Republican and Democrat that we hear in our larger discourse today. Remind yourself of the original roots of the word 'political' -- it is a communication of beliefs and our values. Teaching is a communication of our beliefs and our values, and our students receive that communication and it impacts our larger society. That's why of all the ways we can seek to change the world? I choose to be involved in education.

The root of the word political goes back to the Greek notion of the πόλις or polis. Greek notions of the politeia are akin to Latin ideas of civitas or res publica — what we Virginians might call a commonwealth.

The political at its root is upholding the rights of a citizen in the city — not indoctrinating the future into notions of change. The politiea is quite literally the constitution of the state — written or unwritten — not so much as a sharing of presupposed mutable values to future generations, but the affirmation of intrinsic rights where law exists to protect these rights. Tradition plays its role; the demos balances with the aristos; the nova learns from the vetera.

Yet notice the shift? A dollop of truth followed by a mighty proposition. DeCuir’s argument has little to do with notions of the polity; it has everything to do with accepting her argument uncritically — else you are an anti-Muslim racist.

Frankly, I resent that charge.

To ex ducare or educate a student is not to change the world but rather to “lead forth” — not to change the city but to preserve it against its enemies.

These enemies.

But There Is Genius In Their Hatred…

In the same sense Americans are being asked to reconsider “anti-Muslim racism” perhaps it isn’t too much to ask these same voices for equity — whatever that is supposed to mean — whether they should grapple with the sort of anti-American sentiment that drives people to send airplanes into buildings?

After all, this is the same United States that is welcoming with open arms thousands of Afghan refugees who — rather than being left to the tender mercies of the Taliban — are rushing in droves to get to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

81% of Americans in fact.

One of the more remarkable things about the American experiment is that we are an exceptional country. George Will once mused that one could go to France and never become French, yet anyone could come to America and become American if you assented to few basic truths — that all men were created equal, that we are made in the image of our Creator and endowed with certain inalienable rights, among those being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For one?

I’m tired of apologizing for loving America.

Quite frankly, we are all tired of apologizing for America. Tired of apologizing in general. Tired of apologizing for our neighbors. Tired of apologizing for our economy. Tired of apologizing for the rule of law and the respect and dignity we recognize in every human person — at least, those who are born. Tired of apologizing for basic decency of most Americans. Tired of apologizing for our presence on the world stage.

I’m tired of apologizing for liberating the world from Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Soviet Russia and yes — Islamist terrorism. Tired of apologizing for the freedom of the seas. Tired of apologizing for a nation that unlike any other in the world inherited a flawed political ordering and constitutionally pledged itself “…to form a more perfect Union...”

If there is a better place to raise a family, start a business, or pursue happiness?

Move there.

But I’m tired of apologizing for the bogeyman. Quite frankly, I’m proud of my ancestors who gifted me this great nation — and ashamed of those who are cashing out our inheritance for a bowl of mediocre porridge.

I’ll will defend to the death American exceptionalism because we are indeed an exceptional people — not because of our race or ethnicity or creed, but because of those great Jeffersonian truths that make us unique in the whole history of the world.

In short, I am going to commemorate 9/11 and will remember the hate and intolerance that inspired it.

Before scolding America, perhaps the rest of the world should have the courage to re-examine their own priors and what they bring to the table first.

Perhaps it is time to have a more adult conversation about the very real phenomenon of militant Islam in the world today?

Perhaps — and I am just spitballing here — the problem isn’t the idea of America? Perhaps cloaking these problems under “racism” in an effort not to grapple with these deeply-held and long historical grievances between Islam and the West is the problem — and perhaps we need to have a conversation about adapting to what makes America good rather that dwelling on our collective vices.

Apologia In Advance

Again — there is plenty of fodder for the the yes but and ayckschually crowd to use as ammunition.

Such people can only see the world as racist or bigoted because they are frankly racist and bigoted people themselves — eager to use charged words to get an extra point in order to make the bogeyman real.

So if you read this far? You know a corner of my mind. But I categorically refuse to re-interpret 9/11 as anything but what it was. Efforts to indoctrinate classrooms to the contrary are offensive — if that word means anything anymore — to the very idea of what actually happened on 9/11.

Never forget — and never apologize for loving America. As for the rest, force them to explain why we should and be wary of efforts to tug on the heart strings to accept the unacceptable.

If they really believed what they say they believed? They would be boarding planes and fleeing to Kabul — not Fort Lee or Quantico.


Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.