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When I think of 9-11, I no longer think of a nation that came together in tragedy. That was a short-term effect.

No, I think of how we have become a nation that prefers security to liberty, with so many of us willing to justify breaching the most perverted taboo of torturing people, even our own citizens, without even the attempt at due process of law. I think of the masses buying into the very religious culture war preached by terrorists, bigots begetting bigots begetting bigots.

What we should really “never forget” is that we are more to blame for creating our devils perhaps more than anyone else. But instead we dig in our righteous DoD-issued boots — “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” Convinced we are on highest moral ground, we strive to lower ourselves to the crude caricature of our enemies under the lie that cruelty is strength and fear of survival trumps all human decency. Compassion has been outbid, leaving me to wonder what it was worth to us in the first place.

This is not the America I was taught to believe in as a child. It is most certainly not the America the Founding Fathers risked all to establish. We are cowardly rabid beasts by comparison, waving a flag more as a religious zealot’s icon than a promise kept by the blood of our forefathers and to be made anew by each of us and our children. When I pledge to the flag, I am unsure if “The Republic for which it stands” still exists as more than an ideal I keep in my heart. A memory. A story. Something I want to believe was true. Something I want to be true.

But heaven forbid we speak of such things at a time of mourning remembrance. We are addicted to our reverence for the Victim and the Soldier, so much it makes me wonder if we can’t help continuing to mass produce them both. And we’d rather just read the names from an event 15 years ago than come to grips with how badly we squandered an opportunity to be better people, and a better nation.

I will never forget 9/11 because, after all the heroism of that day had come and gone, it ushered in a new era — the land of the once-free and the home of the once-brave.