Ten years ago today (as half-a-billion other blog posts will open with) I was sitting in my tiny box-bedroom at my parents old house. I was on the computer - an old desktop thing, probably with an Intel Celeron processor – messing around on Cakewalk. My sister, just back home from school making it about 3.30 or 4pm (UK time), knocked on my door and came in. What are you doing she asked. Odd I thought - Why? Oh, there's nothing on TV she replied – just news on every channel. Sensing this was important, more important than a little sister can properly convey, I asked what was going on. I don't know, something about planes falling out of the sky in America. To this day I still cannot figure out the thinking there. I ran down stairs to the TV, and remained there for the next 150 hours.
Now is as good a time as ever to revisit the history of the Crusades, or the sorry history of partition in Kashmir, or the woes of the Chechens and Kosovars. But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there's no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about "the West", to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don't like and can't defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: it's emancipation of women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgement, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings – yes, even in the Pentagon.
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation, September 20, 2001
Many people like me (self-obsessed, politically-micromotivated, liberal but pissed off, unable to make sense of the world, aspirations of intellectualism and writerliness) have attempted to "come to terms" with the 11th Sept 2001 attack on liberalism and modernity that caused the death of thousands of innocent people. I even went through a flippant phase (I was a student, and a dick head) of wondering if bin Laden and his flock were freedom fighters, a la Che Guevara or even Nelson Mandela. Admittedly I was trying to be contentious, but more importantly I was being an idiot. Like many confused liberals I bought into the idea that America was somehow intrinsically evil, and any opposition to it was justified. Sorry if you still believe that, but it is a truly cretinous and intellectually embarrassing belief.
Having said that I still don't know what "coming to terms" with this could possibly mean: why should I; how should I; should I; do I have a need to, or even a right to? I don't believe there are answers to any of these questions. I do believe that we, "the West" if you want to call the Modern world that (Japan is not in the West, but it is in "the West"), have a right and a duty to battle fascist ideals, overthrow tyrants, and aim towards a world united by Universal Human Rights. Perhaps 11th Sept 2001 was a terrible, tragic wake up call; a reminder that the democracies and rights our parents and grandparents (etc) fought for continue to need protecting. A reminder that the rights and freedoms we enjoy are still denied to billions of people across the world, and that oppressors are prepared to use extreme violence to propagate their evil ideas.
Just to clarify, I am not talking about peaceful Muslims the world over. I am talking about the Islamic fascists that rule many countries, the mullahs beating down the rights of men and women. As terrible as the attacks on New York (London, Madrid, etc) were we should remember that Muslims living in Islamic countries are sadly the biggest victims of fascism and brutal ancient dogma. What have we learned? I don't know. What have I learned? I don't know. I do know that I prefer liberal democracy to religious fascism. I shouldn't have to explicitly state that, but sometimes it seems I need to.