We came together after 9/11 as Americans. We formed a bond of unity the likes of which I could not remember save for when I was a child during World War II…
After 9/11, neighborhoods throughout America flew the flag. First responders, especially police and firefighters, were hailed as heroes. President George W. Bush, often demeaned by the mainstream media, seemed to be given a grace period as he provided symbolic unity to the idea of America.
Eighteen years later, the same first responders, some dying of cancer from exposure on that fateful day, had to beg Congress to continue their health benefits.
Patriotism, the embrace of the nation, is no longer praised. A hostile anti-American media has transformed patriotism into a slur to be tied to white nationalism in an identity politics that slices America into groups with competing interests. Many of them find transient unity in something called intersectionality, which pits everyone against the so-called white patriarchy.
No one checked the identities of the first responders who ran toward the Twin Towers on 9/11; nor did they, in turn, ask the identities of the people whom they rescued. The New York Fire Department, like the New York Police Department, was, on 9/11/2001, largely white and male. No one said, “Check your white patriarchy at the door and don’t enter.”
Today, some New Yorkers find it amusing to dunk the police with buckets of water or to climb atop a police car with impunity, knowing that any response by the police will be met with a microscopic examination for excessive force.
In 2008, we elected a president who showed more concern for the aspirations of Muslims than the victims of 9/11. When some Muslims wanted to build a triumphalist mosque at ground zero, President Obama stood with them while lacerating the sensitivities of all of New York.