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Seven Years Later ...

Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008 4:08 AM

It's September 11th, 2008.

Seven years ago, nineteen hijackers took over four aircraft and sent three of them into buildings; the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

On that morning, America's resolve was shown by union construction workers who banded together and helped search for survivors in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. America's courage was shown by the police, firefighters, and paramedics who responded to the scene - as they do to far less grave circumstances every day.

Our leaders told us to go shopping.

Our leaders gave us an excuse that was clearly rehearsed and phrased to shield them from questions as to how we missed the clues, failed to connect the dots.

And that answer was that they didn't know. A refrain that would become a hallmark of an administration's incompetence and mismanagement.

These same people have proclaimed today, 'Patriot Day.' Because, George W. Bush will tell you, he knew you'd forget all about 9/11 and what it meant. Because patriotism isn't about the unique expressions of freedom and democracy that embody America, it's about the flag pin on your lapel. Because unless you're willing to go to war in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks that fateful morning, you're a sissy liberal terrorist-appeasing traitor.

They don't want you to question their implementation of illegal, warrantless surveillance. They don't want you to question their use of torture and extreme rendition. They don't want you to see flag-draped coffins.

Patriotism is not exclusively the support of the current administration or its policies. It's certainly not signing off on the corruption that left the Iraqis with a training facility where sewage dripped from the ceiling, where female contractors are gang raped and held incommunicado, or where contract militia runs amok and then testifies in private.

What does it mean, then, to be a patriot? Our founding fathers devoted themselves to a system of government where our leaders would be both answerable and accountable to the people.

We are at our best and proudest when we can stand up straight and face challenges with honesty and courage, not stooped over and cowering in fear of a government-peddled image of raving terrorists waiting to hop in a rowboat and conquer America. Our convictions must be more than putting a bust of Winston Churchill in our trophy room and hoping his reputation rubs off on us, or in renaming a painting of a fleeing horse thief after a favorite hymn.

And it simply doesn't make sense for the people who are telling us to be afraid to also be in the position of telling us what is and isn't patriotic.

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