The debate over Arizona’s embarrassing 9-11 Memorial is not an academic exercise, nor is it a matter of political partisanship. It is symbolic of the divide between those of us who see the United States as a nation imperfectly but genuinely committed to justice, the rule of law, liberty and opportunity. On the other side of the divide are those who see the United States as a deeply flawed, immoral, embarrassing, jingoistic superpower with impure motives.
That same divide is being played out nationally as we see leading politicans of one party seemingly rooting for the United States to lose, or even openly declaring that we have already been defeated.
One element of the 9-11 story that received little attention is more evidence of the divide — the “Governor’s September 11th Memorial Commission Educational Activities to Commemorate September 11th.” One of the activity titles is “Tolerance, Unity and Diversity,” which includes this exercise: “Discuss how, as a result of the events of 9-11, some people had angry feelings about people who came from different parts of the world or dressed differently than most Americans. They were intolerant.”
Or this from a section entitled “Understanding the World Perspective of 9-11″:
Explain the roots of terrorism:
a. background and motives
b. religious conflict …
c. background of Middle East conflicts …
d. economic and political inequalities and cultural insensitivities
In the hands of a liberal educator, it is not difficult to see how these “lessons” can provide license for a wholesale assault on the American ideal, and indoctrination of children in the anti-American perspective that we caused 9-11 through our “cultural insensitivities” and our failure to understand the roots of terrorism. And that the solution to Islamic extremists blowing up Americans is more tolerance and understanding.
My critique of this “educational” component of the Governor’s 9-11 Commission was noted this week in an article in the Denver Post:
The subject remains a political football. As recently as the 2006 gubernatorial campaign in Arizona, candidate Len Munsil attacked incumbent Janet Napolitano over the “politically correct 9-11 curriculum for our schools.”
The classroom segment for seventh-graders, he argued, indoctrinated schoolchildren in “tolerance for terrorism.”
I saw Islamic Jihad expert Mark Steyn in his speech at the Goldwater Institute last week. Steyn noted that a former Democratic presidential candidate used to like to talk about how it didn’t matter how our ancestors got to America, whether it was in a slave boat, as an immigrant through Ellis Island, on the Mayflower, or through the Bering Strait — that now we are all in the boat together. He pointed out that while that sentiment sounds good and has a certain appeal, we have to be able to draw a distinction between those in the boat who are rowing and those in the boat who are strapping plastic explosives to its side.
And that’s where this curriculum and the Memorial itself go wrong. They fail to make that distinction, because those responsible for the memorial and its educational component seem to have lost faith in our nation’s high purpose. And so when we are ruthlessly and murderously attacked, the response is to blame ourselves and to try to understand our attackers and apologize for provoking them.
Here’s hoping the educational component produced by the Governor’s 9-11 Commission got as much use this year as the Memorial itself — which is to say, none.