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Worldview Watch

periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                               issue #38  posted 5 / 16 / 2014                                           archive of all  issues

 Connecting September 11, 2001 to Worldview Themes

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' "The 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 dedication")

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, 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.

worldview theme example/comments
#16   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 terrorists? 
#21B  Service to Others Roughly 350 first responders (firefighters, police, etc.) gave their lives...
#32   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. 
#38   Valuing Family 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.   
#46A   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. 
#47A   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:

worldview theme example/comments
#2A   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. 
#9A   Religious Fundamentalism  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 infallibility."  He laments that "intolerance is... intrinsic to every creed" and that "certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one." 
#14A    Moralistic God  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! 
#17A  Bitterness & Vengeance  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. 
#24   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 "Militarism" theme).   
#29B  The Threatening, Violent Person 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. 
#39B  Scapegoating  While 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 Jews. 
#46B  Militarism According 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."

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