That moment right
after 9/11 was so fleeting; so paved-over by everything else that followed.
But don't forget-- in that first moment-- it was the actual dead, who were understood to have been the main victims of the attack. All of them were the face of the loss. Not just the American ones.
Soon after, when the heroic sacrifice of the first-responders was realized; the face of the loss shifted. A Russian-constructivist-looking iconic image of a white male firefighter replaced the variety of faces of the entire dead. Still, the heroism was recognizably universal.
Would it have been less a tragedy the majority of the 3,000 dead were French? If French firefighters had given the ultimate sacrifice? No. It was a tragedy against Common decency. Not just some uniquely American variety.
When much fuss was made about the crucifix-shaped chunk of metal impaled at Ground Zero; that was an attempt by one group to claim the attack for themselves. And if that impression had prevailed; perhaps the overall response would have galvanized along religious line, echoing Israel conflicts. A coalition of Christians might have emerged. But that's not what transpired.
What occurred was Bush wrapping 9/11 in the American flag; to draw the lines between Us and Them. Sure, some lip-service was given to saying 9/11 was an attack on the whole civilized world. But more passion was put into making it all-about America. The UN was shunned. The Axis of Evil was invented to draw lines between US and 3 more foreign enemies. Canadians and Mexicans inside our borders were treated as suspects, not allies.
Bush used the word 'decency' several times in his speech of September 8, 2003. Having now desperately found a use for the rest of the world; Bush re-characterizes 9/11 in universal terms. Yet he also clings to the very useful nationalistic rhetoric.
Given the terror attacks from Jakarta to Bali; it's past time for Americans to truly relinquish the dubious comforts of clinging to a red, white, and blue security-blanket. And start seeing events in broader terms.
Also note that the primary image of 'hero' has shifted from firefighter to soldier. For example, note the boost to credibility that comes from a political candidate being a veteran. Fair enough. But note that there isn't similar standing-esteem for the prospect of a firefighter candidate. You don't see ex-fire chiefs being interviewed as experts on every TV channel, like generals. And the policeman's share of the acclaim has diminished even-further. In the US, the hunt for bin Laden is characterized as a military mission; not a police dragnet, or detective mystery, or hot pursuit, or Long Arm of the Law at work. Contrast this against Europe, where a reliance on police procedures has had strong results in netting wanted al Qaeda figures.
National pride and militaristic solutions have their place. But an overly-narrow view does not serve our interests well.