I was unprepared today for how deeply the tributes to the victims of 9/11 would move me. I did not personally know any of the victims of that day. I have friends, including my daughter, who knew at least one of the victims personally. And I shared Christian fellowship a few years ago with the parents of one of the victims (their son) who died in the World Trade Center.
What struck me today was the media’s steadfast attempt to not overtly politicize this particular remembrance. That felt good, at least for a day. But the contempt for President Bush, and that for his Democratic opponents from those on the talking right, is sure to come back with new venom by sunrise tomorrow. I do not pretend to know precisely how this war effort should be fought.(How many troops are needed on the ground? What exist strategy should we have in place? How do we stop what appears to be a civil war of some sort?) But I am quite sure of this much—most of the pundits are just as clueless about these matters as I am. I read the pros and cons on the Bush presidency like everyone else. I have my doubts and I do wonder a great deal about some things that seem wrong. But one thing I do know is this—history will most likely judge almost everything since 9/11 very differently than we who are alive today judge it in the year 2006.
Newt Gingrich, the former conservative Republican congressman from Georgia who was speaker of the house during the Clinton era, made comparisons last week in the Wall Street Journal (September 7) between the issues faced by President Bush today and by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. I feel much more comfortable talking about Abraham Lincoln, given my life-long interest in the man, than about this present war and George W. Bush. (I am an active member of the Lincoln Forum, a dedicated group of professional and lay students of all things related to Lincoln.) Gingrich made a number of interesting points, in his editorial, about the war during Lincoln’s era and the war now being conducted under Bush’s leadership. He cited Lincoln’s famous line in his annual message to Congress in 1862 in which he said, “We must disenthrall ourselves.” Gingrich, himself a trained historian before he entered Congress, sees “Echoes of the past in today’s strategic mistakes.” I fear that he is right. If we would win the future, Gingrich believes, we must become convinced of the steps that will truly lead to victory. He concludes, “No enemy can stand against a determined American people.” What he openly questions, however, is our national determination and our will to face an obviously difficult future. I have to agree with him even if I do not agree with all that he says about how we will reach that future.