I've never derived less satisfaction from wiping the grin off someone's face.
A few days ago, not knowing how the local schools would handle the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I decided to have a man-to-man talk with blissfully ignorant 7-year-old son Gideon.
As I spoke of the first jetliner smashing into the World Trade Center, Gideon got a mischievous smile, probably anticipating a terrible pun or a Hollywood twist ending.
When the seriousness of the narrative began to sink in, my little chatterbox scrunched down in my lap and got misty-eyed. Once I related the bare bones version of the tragedy, I decided to quit while I was ahead.
When the time is ripe to raise the issue again, I hope to impress upon Gideon several lessons, including not only the limited perspective of his not-infrequent "This is the worst day of my life!" outbursts, but also the life-or-death value of an OPEN MIND.
Certainly the suicidal perpetrators of September 11 were not paragons of Weighing All The Options. They did a cunning job with the middle part of the operation (orchestrating the mechanics of carrying out the hijackings/crashes) but apparently did little research to see if Allah really required them to take such extreme measures or if their scheme would really ACCOMPLISH anything (such as breaking the American spirit).There's precious little evidence that the extremists' inbred thinking led to telling moderate Muslims "Here are some ideas we'd like to bounce off you," looking at Israel's case for legitimacy, examining the justifications for the Persian Gulf War or attempting to empathize with their thousands of intended victims.
On the other hand, American intelligence agencies helped the attacks blindside the American public. Shameful combinations of unwarranted overconfidence, bailiwicks, departmental territoriality, and ruffled feathers helped keep us from connecting the dots.
The simplistic macho posturing that surrounded the launch of "Shock and Awe" in Afghanistan did little to prepare us for protracted operations in the land that had previously caused the Soviet Union to tuck its tail and leave.
Both sides in every controversy about the War On Terror have self-righteously engaged in cherry-picking of facts, suppression of uncomfortable realities and wild predictions of success or disaster. All of this has been under the auspices of ephemeral political polls, infallible party leaders or the musings of a clique of like-minded individuals.
The past decade has given us no shortage of "yes men," lockstep marching, ideological litmus tests, partisan politics, rote talking points and groupthink. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists are the most glaring examples of the phenomenon (I'm surprised no one has claimed that the four planes on Sept. 11 really crashed at Roswell, New Mexico), but they are not alone in reinforcing their prejudices with the same narrow set of news sources.
Tunnel vision has produced extremists on both sides, from the redneck "Nuke all the rag heads" crowd to the namby-pamby politically correct crowd who would LITERALLY rather die than do any profiling for security reasons.
I want Gideon to grasp the significance of the "Never Forget" slogan. But all of us need to realize that remembrance and forgetfulness are moot points when there are things one has chosen never to ACKNOWLEDGE in the first place.
©2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.