9/11: The Case for Controlled and Sustained Rage

Every year on the eve of 9/11, my wife and I show our older kids pictures from the day. And every year I feel a fresh sense of rage at the attack. It’s a puzzling phenomenon of politically correct American life that almost immediately our media and national leadership began a long process of emotional de-escalation, a process that continues even after eleven years of war and continual, wholesale atrocities from our enemies. While nothing could shield the families of the fallen from the pain and reality of their loss, the networks “spared” the rest of us the worst of the images. And they “spare” us still today.

I’ve said this before, but if there is one lesson I learned during my own deployment, it’s that our enemy is far more evil than most Americans imagine. Their evil should trigger rage — a controlled rage — and it certainly does for our soldiers downrange. A morally depraved country attacked like we were on 9/11 would lash out wildly and indiscriminately, annihilating its enemies and anyone in their proximity. A morally weak country would shrink back, timidly, complying with terrorists demands. But our nation has largely responded in the right way, with a righteous anger that has in part sustained us through eleven years of continual conflict — a war that represents the most focused application of violence in the entire history of warfare.

Every September 11, I’m proud of my country. I’m proud of the men and women who sacrificed themselves on Flight 93 — our first counterattack in the War on Terror. I’m proud that the entire day of September 11, 2001, was marked and characterized by profound examples of American heroism, compassion, and decency. I’m proud that our nation has fought longer — with an all-volunteer military — than the jihadists ever thought we would (turns out we’re not so “soft” after all). And I’m proud that throughout that very long war, we’ve been neither depraved nor weak, but have focused our attacks on our enemies while sacrificing to defend the defenseless, at home and abroad.

On this eleventh anniversary, take a moment to view once again the images not just of that terrible day but also of the war that has followed. And when you do, remember that you are right to be angry — and that anger should renew your resolve.

This post originally appeared in National Review Online.

  • Dennis


    I agree that this day seems to get somewhat glossed over by many media outlets. I watched the replay on one cable news network that showed the recordings of that day but also had real people who were survivors, cameramen and responders telling what they recalled and felt in that moment as well as how they feel now. Almost all of them have the same reaction to the events of that day eleven years later. I know I do. I do not feel much in the way of an “emotional de-escalation”. Actually watching, remebering, and honoring this day as you express above does not allow for such a de-escalation. How could it? We, as a nation, are so dangerously close to the de-escalation of a truly American identity that I fear 9/11 will one day be “explained” and “understood” to have somehow been invited by our American identity. As you note-this is already going on by the watered down version of what actually took place. My renewed resolve, then, is to foster pride in BEing an American. To BE an American IS to feel rage when we are attacked or lose a service member. It also means standing up for our truly American principles and ideals. There are certain things, after all, that are unique to us and make America what it is. I am proud of this nation, its heritage and tradition, and I am hopeful that the sacrifice of the innocents of 9/11 and all of our service men and women are never lost to American guilt or political correctness.

  • Kate

    Controlled rage is not a Christian concept in my opinion. Emotional reactivity rather than thoughtful reactivity will keep a child from differentiating and the fusion in your family will be quite strong. A tangled mess of emotional reactivity to beliefs different from your own will prevent them from self-identifying.

    If you still believe it though, I hope you’re showing your children pictures of atrocities that have been committed by people all around the globe, including those from American history committed by Americans. Limiting that to radical Islam will only narrow their view of the world.

    • David French

      The fact that you compare American actions to radical Islam demonstrates your profound ignorance of radical Islam and American history.

      As far as controlled rage, anger without sin is a clear biblical concept.

      • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

        David wrote: “The fact that you compare American actions to radical Islam demonstrates your profound ignorance of radical Islam and American history.”

        Are you serious? You seem to be blinded by patriotism and stuck in a fantasy land…

      • Kate

        Sin is sin. I would think that teaching your children that all countries have a history of not following God in certain areas would be important to teach your children. I would want my children to feel grieved over American slavery as I would want them to feel grieved over killing in the name of Islam.

  • http://www.cordeiro.us Cordeiro

    I was in New York during the 2004 Republican Convention. I made a point of walking past the Word Trade Center site on a daily basis and was stopped by a PBS film crew out of Boston who were busy conducting “man-on-the-street” interviews. They asked my about my feelings as I looked out on that hallowed ground and they seemed taken a back when I answered “I am still angry.” Eight years have passed and that feeling remains.

    With due respect (however much or little that may be) to “Kate” and “jatheist”, I refuse to “get over” or “let go” of the fact that militant Islamo-fascist Murdering Thugs came to my country and butchered 2,996 of my fellow countrymen for no other reason than they got up that morning and went about normal American life.

    I will take my country, flaws and all, up against every single other nation, kindred, tongue, and people on God’s green earth and defy you to find a nation who has acquired more power and abused it less. Take a good look at the scenes from Cairo and Bengazi and tell me honestly under which banner you really want to live and raise a family.

    • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

      Cordeiro wrote: “I refuse to “get over” or “let go” of the fact that militant Islamo-fascist Murdering Thugs came to my country and butchered 2,996 of my fellow countrymen…”

      And I would never ask you to “get over” it or “let go”. That wasn’t my point. I’m not “over it” either.

      The point I was trying to make was that it’s irrational to pretend that our great country hasn’t actively engaged in some equally horrific crimes against humanity. To pretend that atrocities are only happening because of Islam is dangerously naive.

  • Kate

    One last thought. I’d like to see you and Nancy write an article acknowledging that the emotions and truths of politics are a complicated web. People are flawed and people are the sum of their experiences. I have no doubt that you are both passionate people who are filled with compassion for God and for the people with whom you encounter on a daily basis. And I have no doubt that your service for God, your country, and your community is admirable and an excellent model for your children.

    But I do wish that this human compassion would be reflected more in your writing and how you respond to people who offer their opinions. Maybe people wouldn’t react so strongly if you did address the reality and people, nations, and leaders are all in need of grace and don’t have everything figured out.