Was Sacrifice the Point of 9/11?

President Barack Obama praised the new Sept. 11 museum … as “a sacred place of healing and of hope” that captures both the story and the spirit of heroism and helpfulness that followed the attacks. 

“It’s an honor to join in your memories, to recall and to reflect, but above all to reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11 — love, compassion, sacrifice — and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation,” he told an audience of victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers at the ground zero museum’s dedication ceremony.

“Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans.” [Source: Associated Press 5/15/14]

9/11 was about love, compassion and sacrifice? Well, it was certainly about sacrifice — the sacrifice of innocent lives for the sake of a militant and violent ideology, an ideology that the current American president (like his predecessor) persists in calling a noble and peaceful religion.

The world is full of people who admire and worship self-sacrifice. The Communists and Nazis built entire, world-threatening regimes around this supposed ideal. Militant Islam does the same thing, although for different reasons.

When will the people we elevate to the mantle of leadership ever learn that sacrifice is not the ideal? In fact, it’s the claim that sacrifice is a virtue which makes violent events such as 9/11 possible.

You might reply that he’s talking about the rescue workers and soldiers who have endeavored to protect the country, both on 9/11 and since then. But if your country is truly worth protecting, how is that a sacrifice? Granted, it takes a special and unusual type of person to take jobs in emergency rescue, and the like. But anyone I have ever talked to in these professions tells me that they enjoy this line of work, passionately so. I don’t know about you, but I want people in such professions to take care of themselves and to selfishly desire to do this kind of work. Self-interest is a necessary and core component of motivation, just as self-preservation is the single most important thing keeping any of us alive. If you claim otherwise, or if you fantasize otherwise, you’re out of touch with your own self.

“Nothing can change who we are as Americans,” says Obama. This implies that there’s something distinctive about the American way of life, or the American system. I certainly agree with that premise. I’d like to know what Obama would say is the distinctively American attitude. He made it clear from day one of his presidency that there’s no such thing as “American exceptionalism.” According to this view: We’re no better, or worse, or really any different — as a system, as a government, as a way of life — than anybody else in history, to date. (Even though virtually everyone would prefer to live in America rather than somewhere else.)

Probably to Obama, the main distinguishing quality of America is self-sacrifice. Obama glorified this himself in the same speech, and virtually every other speech he has ever given.

This wasn’t the original attitude or spirit animating the American Revolution. The Revolutionary-era American flag consisted of a rattlesnake with the words, “Don’t tread on me.” Notice that the words chosen were not, “I am my brother’s keeper,” nor, “Go ahead, tread on me, and I will turn the other cheek.” The image on the flag was a rattlesnake, not a dove. It was the lack of such a spirit which made America vulnerable to such an awful attack on 9/11 in the first place.

The response to 9/11 was nothing like the American Revolution, either. History will record that after launching a full-scale, and then later halting, attack against a regime (Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) unrelated to the attack, America basically pulled back and did nothing in response to 9/11 — other than criticize and condemn those who criticize and condemn the religion in whose name the attacks were made. The twenty-first century America is — as represented by its leaders, at least — a neurotic and guilt-ridden nation saddled with self-conscious worry of offending others. The proper flag in a country led by Obama and others like him would be, “Please like me.”

How do you reconcile self-sacrifice with the individual right of everyone to pursue his or her own happiness? Self-sacrifice is the ethos of the 9/11 Muslim martyrs, not the people who founded the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Bill of Rights at the core of our original Constitution refers not to the right of others to sacrifice you — but to the right of each individual to be left alone, free of interference. This attitude is essentially selfish. If self-sacrifice is the ideal, then why don’t those who glorify it simply come out with what they really want: Not an American system of government (the original concept) based on the private sovereignty of each and every individual, but instead a system based upon self-sacrifice. And make them call it what it is — Communism, collectivism, socialism, anything but Americanism.

Self-sacrifice and “Americanism” do not mix. Not if what you mean by “who we are as Americans” refers to anything distinctive about the United States. America was the first, and so far the only, nation in human history to celebrate the rights and the glory of the individual above that of the group. Sacrifice of self to group? That has been tried, and tried, and tried. It always ends in blood and despair. Not only in Communism and Nazism, but every system ever known to mankind prior to (and since) America — religious theocracy, royal imperialism, tribal gangs, you name it. Only a system even loosely based on individual rights got it right. Nothing less will ever do.

You might think you love America if you cherish self-sacrifice. But self-sacrifice and America, at least as it was originally conceived, will never mix.


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