Daily Meme: Do We Want to Live in Post-9/11 America Anymore?

  • With the war on terror over, at least on paper if not in practice, and Hizzoner Bloomberg's never-ending reign over City Hall coasting to a close, we seem to be finally asking ourselves, do we want to live in a post-9/11 world anymore?
  • In the New York City mayoral race—which reaches its climax with today's Democratic primary—the backdrop isn't tomorrow's anniversary, but Bloombergism and the niggling thought of what New York would be if a mayoral primary was, as assumed beforehand, the big local story of September 11, 2001. 
  • Peter Kaplan described New York's millennial prehistory as a time when "Sincerity, purpose, emotion were déclassé. Incomes and real-estate prices climbed ceaselessly and so did exhibitionism, steeped in wealth, full of avarice without apology. Needless to say, it was also somewhat of a gas." 
  • The merits of such a New York are up for debate, but it's hard to argue that Bloomberg's legacy doesn't include a return to that New York, with one crucial modifier—it all seems less fun. Not only are the wealthy and the exhibionists so rampant that they've become the city's hoi polloi, but that to which we aspired feels far more out of reach
  • If the polls prove destiny, it looks like New York is ready to move on. The Democratic mayoral primary has always been between two choices—vote for Christine Quinn if you want your New York like it was, deep-fried in thick accents and machine politics, with a whiff of Bloomberg thrown in for free; vote for Bill de Blasio if you're ready to make the city less about those who spend and yell the loudest ... even if it's a hope doomed to disappoint
  • We'll find out tonight, but it looks like New York's Democrats are ready for the latter. Given the ideological make-up of the city, this trial run of post-post 9/11 New York just might get a green light come November. 
  • With Syria—despite the White House's best efforts to insist otherwise—the possibility of another foreign-policy quagmire is foregrounding everyone's opinions on an airstrike. 
  • Congress is mulling whether to approve action in the world's civil war du jour this week, their first back from summer recess (although the international politics of it all may render the airstrike moot, for now).
  • Legislators who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are among those most skeptical of airstrikes. Representative Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in Iraq, said this week “I’ve heard the discussion before that this type of thing is going to be a limited attack and it will be done in a short amount of time. War is messy; war is never that simple.”
  • The country appears ready to move on and out of our self-ordained role as the Emma Woodhouse of the Middle East.
  • Sixty-two percent of Americans polled by The New York Times and NBC News think we shouldn't take starring roles in trying to fix foreign messes. In April 2003, only 43 percent opposed our leading role in Iraq. Six in ten American oppose airstrikes in Syria all together.
  • Getting involved in another conflict seems especially fraught when it feels like the last two wars have finally crashed onto American soil, as PTSD-wrecked solidiers return home
  • And last but not least, there is a corner of the political realm most reticent to step out of September 11's shadow—the federal government, with its Hoarders-esque fascination with the world's information... 
  • ... as well as the paranoid need to prosecute those who try to upend the system they've inflated to panopticon proportions through a refusal to discuss it.
  • So what to do about all these swirling unresolved ends? What David Remnick said on 9/11's ten-year anniversary perhaps still answers it best: "Ten years after the attacks, we are still faced with questions about ourselves—questions about the balance of liberty and security, about the urge to make common cause with liberation movements abroad, and about the countervailing limits. Only absolutists answer these questions absolutely."
  • The 9/11 museum director Alice Greenwald thinks the site is just the place to ask some of these questions: “This is a museum, I like to say, that’s not about answers. It’s a museum about questions. And we end with questions, and we then invite the public to participate in that dialogue.”
  • The public's answer appears to be that it's time to define America in new terms. We'll see if our leaders follow.

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