fact and fiction
Every once in a while, especially during the summer, I like to pull a book down off my "already read" shelf and read it again.
This weekend I chose Nelson DeMille's The Lion's Game. I like the way DeMille writes. I like that Long Island is recurring location in his novels and I read certain passages in his books with familiarity. Yes, I know that location! DeMille once had a character being chased through the Cradle of Aviation museum, of which my father is a board member and which I visited often during its building stages. That kind of familiarity in a novel doesn't happen too often. Besides, like I said, I like the way he writes. The loose banter of the narrative and the way his stories unwind effortlessly make for perfect summer reading.
I read Lion's Game for the first time several years ago, when the book first appeared on my father's desk shortly after it was released. I went on a DeMille binge after that, reading through his whole catalog over one summer.
That was in 2000, I believe, when the ideas of militant Muslims and terrorist attacks didn't weigh heavily on my mind.
After 9/11, I glanced through Lion's Game again, this time reading much more into it. It had it all; the Middle East, hijacked airliners and a telling, detailed account of what makes a man so distorted by hatred turn his life into one long, all-consuming jihad. Like I said, I just glanced then. I put it down, unable to get myself back into a piece of fiction that was tied so closely to the dreadful reality of the times.
Yesterday I started the book over from scratch. Almost immediately, the words jumped off the page. World Trade Center. Of course, DeMille was referring to the WTC bombing of 1993. But as I read on, it became apparent that the novel was so prescient it became unnerving. Talk of Mossad agents, racial profiling, militant Islamists, the ridiculous political correctness of government agencies.
Reading a book for a second time, you read it differently. You know what's coming ahead, but you look for things that might have gone over your head the first time around because you were reading so fast in order to move the story along, that your brain skipped some underlying themes. With Lion's Game, I'm re-reading with a whole different perspective this time. I nod my head at certain points - yes, it happened just like that - and pause at certain moments, like in DeMille's description of the bravado of the Port Authority police.
So here we are, just two months away from the second anniversary and I wonder if and when these anniversaries will stop meaning so much and stop hitting so hard. Probably never, which is just as well. I think we'll always need that emotional reminder to either keep us on our toes, or to keep us feeling thankful for what we still have.
Are we winning the war against domestic terror? Many of you will say no, we are not. We have not learned the appropriate lessons of 9/11, we have not curtailed the danger of a terrorist attack at all.
I ask those of you who answer that way this: Has there been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001? For all the fears we had about hidden cells and bio-terror and imminent attacks, there were none. Not in almost two years since that day. By what do you measure success then?
While Lion's Game is work of fiction, it's basis is not. The hatred that the antagonist feels for America is all too prevelant in certain societies today. In fact, it's prevelant right here in the U.S. and felt by actual Americans. Hate by our own, we are. Now imagine that hatred that a citizen of a country has for their own homeland and magnify that - imagine that hatred living deep inside of someone raised elsewhere; someone raised on a steady diet of anger and rigtheousness and martydom, who has been taught that America is the evil empire and evil empires should be made to pay.
It's a wonder there haven't been more days like 9/11, don't you think? Perhaps the war on terror is going better than you imagine it to be.
In just a few weeks, the anniverary editorials will star in earnest. The television specials will crop up on Sunday nights during family hour, the best time to bring out your tears. The memorials will be announced, the flags will be lowered and we will mourn as a nation again.
Except, the number of mourners will be less. I expect that as each anniversary comes and goes, the next one will bring less and less people to the altar of rememberance. People forget. They move on. They get tired of candlelight vigils and flags on car antennas.
It's a dangerous thing to forget, to let those feelings slide out of you to such a degree that they cease to exist. It's too easy to slip back into your ways of trusting everyone, of letting open that door for the total stranger, of going lax on security. It's hard work to be wary. Unfortunately, it is necessary work.
If anyone doubts that if anyone thinks that we should loosen the stranglehold of national security or ease up on airline regulations, they should read Lion's Game and learn about hatred, and how that hatred is not just an emotion, but a burning mission to destroy for some people.
RELATED: John Hawkins interviews Congressman Tom Tancredo (R - CO), who talks candidly about open borders and terrorism.