Saturday, April 13, 2024

SELLERS: Can 9/11 Help Reorient a Society That Has Lost Moral Bearings?

'Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the ... moral worlds within us, we shall secure ... prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and ... shall not pass away...'

(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) What does it mean when we tell ourselves that the more things change, the more they remain the same?

Certainly, the one true constant in life is the impermanence of everything in it—a lesson that comes only with the wisdom of experiencing loss and transition.

To what extent, though, can we find solace in embracing such ephemerality?

With the latest anniversary of 9/11, I have found an interesting phenomenon beginning to emerge:

On one hand, the remembrance of that day’s events from 21 years ago remains a fixture of sorts—a cultural touchstone for those who lived through it.

And yet, the ever-evolving circumstances of the world around us help to shape further our understanding of its profound historical impact—at the risk of diminishing what it meant at the time.


The context in which we commemorate each 9/11 anniversary seems to add another layer to its significance in the dynamically unfolding narrative about rise and fall of the American Empire.

The 11th-anniversary 9/11 attack on America’s Libyan embassy in Benghazi, for example, revealed to us the callousness of the Obama–Biden–Clinton administration, which was more concerned over the political fallout than it was the loss of four lives—including that of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who likely died in a most horrific fashion.

“What difference, at this point, does it make,” asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one of the GOP-led oversight hearings that followed.

Last year, on its 20th anniversary, 9/11 officially crossed over a midpoint for me. More years have now passed since the 2001 terrorist attacks than I had lived when they happened.

My youthful illusions of American exceptionalism and innocent naïveté regarding our government’s benign intentions, which first began to fade on that day, have forever vanished.

While tapping into the raw feelings of empathy, compassion and shared humanity that I wrote about in my first 9/11 column, two years ago, remains my top aspirational goal, it grows harder to do by the year.

When I posted that column, it was a time for hope in the face of fear. The pandemic had torn down all that we held dear—but like the Bruce Springsteen song I use in my perennial 9/11 tribute video on social media, there was a belief that we could, under the leadership of then-President Donald Trump, “rise up” out of the ruins.

That same year, America’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, let us down big-time by failing to play his hand properly on the Hunter Biden laptop and by turning Trump’s legitimate post-election legal challenges into something of a clown show.

Since then, each passing day under the Biden administration feels like a new 9/11, but with all hope of deliverance and redemption beginning to dissolve.


Last year’s 9/11 column fittingly came just weeks after the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, putting an end to the 20-year war than began with the 2001 terrorist attacks while conceding, for America and its Western allies, a resounding military defeat.

Still defiant, I resolved to begin a new tradition of listening to a 1964 speech by then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan about the need for vigilance and perseverance in the fight against a the Left’s encroaching radicalism.

The 30-minute speech chillingly foreboded the downward descent of Democrats from a party representing classical liberalism to a quasi-socialist authoritarianism.

But like the fight in Afghanistan, Reagan’s fight against tyranny now seems like a failed mission in the making against the divisive demagoguery of the Biden administration.

In November, Americans must endure another “United 93 election,” to borrow from Claremont Institute scholar Michael Anton’s famous 2016 column about the longshot gambit to stake the nation’s survival on Donald Trump as a sort of last resort.

But this time, it’s as if the United 93 hijackers have succeeded in persuading half the plane that those putting up the resistance are the true terrorists.

It feels as though the opportunity for desperate acts of last-minute heroism and self-sacrifice on behalf of the greater good has come and gone. All that remains is self-preservation.


Fittingly, this year’s 9/11 anniversary comes amid the backdrop of even more epochal changes.

Last week’s passing of Queen Elizabeth II, following her 70-year reign, may not relate in any direct way to America’s political turmoil, but she was for many around the world a symbol of stability—a constant that tied us to our shared sense of history, of custom, grace, civility and dignity that were remnants of a bygone era.

Her death left us all as orphans in a world untethered from the noble qualities that once defined and united us.

Shockingly, far too many West-hating figures in the mainstream media used the opportunity to tastelessly attack the queen, turning Britain’s national mourning into a platform for spewing their own racial and cultural grievances.

The ramifications of this changing of the guard, so to speak—both with the United Kingdom’s leadership under King Charles III moving us closer to a globalist New World Order and with the eroding foundations of virtues like classical liberalism and democracy—put the world in shakier stead than many have ever witnessed in our lifetime.

While the economic conditions are the worst we have endured in 40 years, since the start of the Reagan administration, the current threats to freedom make the fate of our civilization now more precarious than it has been in at least 80 years, since before the queen’s coronation.


In each prior case, when presented with such existential crises, great leaders have risen to deliver us.

Thus, we can do nothing else but maintain our trust that goodness and righteousness have a way of self-correcting when the path of humankind strays—provided we still know which direction we’re supposed to be going.

Perhaps it is not the nature of change that is constant in the world after all, but rather our ability to remember the past and keep it in perspective.

This year, I look not to Bruce Springsteen, nor Rudy Giuliani, nor the great leaders of our immediate past, like Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth, to find my perspective on how to approach the future, but to a more distant history.

It was 163 Septembers ago that Abraham Lincoln, with the nation on the cusp of Civil War I, first popularized the phrase “this too shall pass” during an 1859 campaign stop at the Wisconsin state fair.

Lincoln attributed the phrase to Jewish folklore, vaguely alluding to the story of King Solomon, although there is no biblical reference to that phrase specifically.

“How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride; how consoling in the depths of affliction!” the soon-to-be-Great Emancipator said.

“…And yet, let us hope, it is not quite true,” he continued. “Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us, and the intellectual and moral worlds within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

For Lincoln, like the victims of 9/11 and the brave soldiers sent to avenge them, it would require the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that those words live on in our hearts and memories.

Although the circumstances may perpetually shift and present new, heretofore unseen threats and adversities, nothing can destroy our faith that such a society is attainable—unless we, ourselves, allow it to be lost.

Ben Sellers is the editor of Headline USA. Follow him at truthsocial.com/@bensellers.

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