issue #38 posted 5 / 16 / 2014
archive of all issues
Connecting September 11, 2001 to
in the news: Yesterday's news was dominated
by stories about the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum
in New York City and President Obama's dedication of it. (See The New York Times'
9/11 Story Told at Bedrock, Powerful as a Punch to the Gut"
and The Washington Post 's "Obama,
other officials speak at September 11 Memorial Hall and Museum
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): It
may be possible to connect the story of the Islamic extremists' attack on
America of 9/11/2001 and its aftermath with each and every one of Project
Worldview's 81 worldview themes. Relax, I don't plan on doing that
here! Rather I hope to make some connections that haven't been made by the
mainstream media. What follows is in two parts: 1) I briefly take up the
challenge which the museum creators know all about: of seeking to find
something uplifting and generally trying to put a small amount of good
spin on the events of a horrible day. 2) I spend more time analyzing the
themes behind what led to the attack, the American response to it, and
looking for lessons learned. Neither of these is an easy task.
In contrast it's much easier from a Cynicism
(theme #36A) viewpoint to dwell on human failings and sneering at the
less admirable aspects of human nature. One doesn't have to even enter the
museum to find a reason to be cynical. To many the controversial $24
entrance fee--an amount that seemingly excludes poor people from
visiting--hardly promotes an inclusive, national coming together, sharing
in remembering and moving beyond a horrible chapter in American history!
Were I to fully attempt to celebrate what was good about
9/11--heroic individual action, other-oriented, self sacrificing behavior,
actions that communicated love or represented individuals heroically
working together for the common good in the face of nightmarish tragedy,
etc--I would focus on the worldview themes and related illustrative
examples in the following list.
The Golden Rule, Village Ethic of Mutual Help
||Obama cited how 24 year old financial worker Wells
Crowther repeatedly helped otherwise trapped people find the
stairs and, after leading them out to safety, went back into the
stricken tower in a futile attempt to bring more out.
|#17B Gratitude & Forgiveness
||Many who gratefully owed their lives to Crowther
initially didn't know his name they only knew him as the guy in
the red bandana. And I suspect there were people
(Christians?) who lost loved ones but managed to forgive the
Service to Others
||Roughly 350 first responders (firefighters, police,
etc.) gave their lives...
Valuing Human Rights
||As a memorial to her relative who died on 9/11 at
least one person gave money to help establish a school so Afghan
girls can get an education the Islamic extremists / Sharia Law
promoters seek to deny them.
||Cell phone messages of love from those trapped in
the towers (or on the hijacked plane) to family members expressing
their feelings before their death.
The Technological Fix Mentality
||The 1960s American technology that built the World
Trade Center towers' foundation and wall that held back the Hudson
River survived the planes' impact and averted a much greater
disaster. And certainly rebuilding with a 1776 ft tall structure
celebrates American determination and technological prowess.
The Attitudinal Fix Mentality
||The rebuilding would not have happened without a can
do, resilient attitude...
Worldview themes behind what led to the attack, the
American response to it, and comments related to lessons learned:
The True Believer
||Certainly the Islamic terrorists behind the attack
fit Eric Hoffer's depiction of a true believer as "a man of
fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy
cause." They died believing they were heroically striking a
blow for Allah.
||While the 9/11 terrorists' interpretation of the
Qu'ran's jihad/holy war and the call to duty they felt undoubtedly
represents a horrible twisting of the essential message of this
holy book, many Americans responded to 9/11 with disgust at
religion. One was Sam
Harris, whose concern motivated him to write The End of Faith.
There he points the finger at sacred books of great
religions: "each making an exclusive claim as to its
He laments that "intolerance is... intrinsic to every
creed" and that "certainty about the next life is simply
incompatible with tolerance in this one."
||The 9/11 terrorists' suicidal action indicates they
had given up on "this life" and were looking to
"the next life.". They believed that a moralist God's
(Allah's) favorable judgment would save their souls and that
accordingly they would spend a blissful eternity enjoying the
rewards of Heaven. If there is no "next life"
as Scientific Materialists (theme #5A) and
atheists/Secular Humanists (theme #10)
believe, then the choice they made looks even worse!
||I'd say the American response to 9/11 was
misguidedly based on revenge. Had it been limited to killing those
directly responsible (Osama bin Laden and immediate followers) it
would have been much more justifiable--although not to Christians
who believe in forgiveness and turning the other cheek. As it was,
one can argue that it not only involved what ultimately became a
long (2002-2014?) war in Afghanistan but also starting (in 2003) an even
more costly war in Iraq.
Struggling With A Basic Need: Sustenance
||Dissatisfaction with their lives of extreme poverty
and hope for something better undoubtedly wins Islamic extremist
groups like al Qaeda many recruits. In Afghanistan nearly half of
the population subsists on less than $1/day. As the
groundswell for a US military response against al Qaeda and their
Taliban hosts in Afghanistan grew in late 2001, I recall imagining
the US and the Afghan people cut a deal that went something like
this: You get us bin Laden and we'll give each of your 30 million
people $1000. (Most would get at least the equivalent of their annual
income, many two or three times that.) This would have cost US
taxpayers $30 billion and saved thousands of lives. While
admittedly too simplistic and open to questions about rewarding
terrorism, in retrospect it could be viewed as a noble
humanitarian economic development gesture and a real bargain when
compared to $ trillions costs to come (see below under
|#29B The Threatening,
||The 9/11 nightmare and its aftermath is about lack
of restraint. Many religious fundamentalists worship a loving New
Testament God (or the equivalent) “turn the other cheek” and
are lenient and forgiving. Those worshiping a spiteful Old
Testament God or Allah may opt for vengeance and “an eye
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” or holy war/jihad. The
9/11 terrorists fall into the latter category and
they had no qualms about murdering thousands of innocent people
and threatening more to come. After a more secular debate, the
American leadership also opted for a violent response.
the 9/11 terrorist Islamic fundamentalists blamed
America for much they didn't like, and Americans in general blamed
al Qaeda for that day's death and destruction, at least one American Christian
fundamentalist / Moralistic God devotee attempted to place the blame for 9/11 elsewhere. After
connecting the attack with the behavior of the supposedly ungodly
(pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians), the Rev. Jerry Falwell said,
"If we decide to change all the rules on which this
Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put
his shield of protection around us as He has in the past."
With respect to the 9/11 museum and memorial (as
reported by NPR in a May 15, 2014 interview) its
director formerly worked planning and implementing the US
Holocaust Memorial Museum--devoted to one of history's most
notorious scapegoatings that led to the murder of six million
to a Harvard researcher's study as reported in The Washington
Post "The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost
taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the
medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force
depleted by more than a decade of fighting."