I’ll skip the boring and lame reasons for #1 and focus on #2 today. Every year on 9/11 I feel like I should have something profound to say. I never really do, and today its especially true, but I do have something to say. I started this post on my Facebook page, thinking it was just going to be a sentence or two, and it quickly blossomed into a full post, so it sparked my enthusiasm to fire up the old blog again. This should be a short one, though.
9/11 changed the course of my life. That is not hyperbole. If it had not happened, I’d be leading a different life in many ways. Not a better or worse life, just a different one. And I’d be a different person with very different viewpoints on many topics, if I had a viewpoint on those topics at all. 9/11 was the butterfly flapping its wings across the world creating the storm of my life.
I’ve spoken before about how 9/11 changed my views of religion (specifically here and here), but I think what stands out most to me today, is how 9/11 changed my view of what it means to be free. 9/11 was also my birth, or maybe the beginning of my adolescence, as a libertarian (although I had no idea what that term meant at the time). 9/11 itself evoked extreme feelings of patriotism for me, as it did for many Americans. It sparked me to join the fight by going to work for an agency involved in the “Global War on Terror”. That experience led me to learn more than I ever had before about economics and Classical Liberal philosophy. Perhaps a future post will dive more into why that happened. In turn, what I learned in those areas has altered my view of 9/11 from what it was the day it happened and the first few years afterwards. I no longer think of today as a day of unbridled patriotism. Instead I think of it as a reminder of how far the country has come from the ideals it was founded upon. I still believe that the “American Experiment” was one of the greatest endeavors humans have ever attempted. We always have been and always will be a work in progress. I’m worried that we have given up on the effort to live up to our ideals, however, and are heading down a path of becoming the thing we fought against.
I feel truly lucky to have been born in America. I’m one of the lucky few of the billions who have lived in my time and before. 9/11 taught me that where a person was born shapes a lot of who they become, and I don’t take that for granted. But I also don’t accept blind patriotism anymore. I believe in the ideals of individual liberty, and I fear that 9/11 pushed us as a nation further away from living up to those ideals.
That terrible day should never have happened. The lives lost should have been able to continue their days as if nothing had happened, but instead they were stopped in time too early. Not a single person deserved what happened to them that day, except for the 19 participants in the plot. So, I remember those lives today with honor, even though I never met one of them. And I will continue to honor them by remembering that they were individuals with hopes and dreams, wanting to live their own lives in peace. That those men who took their lives thought more of the next life than this one, and took away the choices of 2,958 (I do not count the hijackers in this total) in this life is haunting. 9/11 taught me that this life is the only one we know we have, and that my right to interfere in the lives of others going about their own business is (or should be) limited.