This is a continuation of yesterday's discussion about the 9/11 widows and the Bush ads. Please read here
Today's Opinion Journal
offers an editorial from Debra Burlingame, "a life-long Democrat, [and] the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame, III, captain of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001."
Ms. Burlingame is not offended by Bush's use of 9/11 imagery in his campaign ads. Ms. Burlingame is probably in the majority of relatives of 9/11 victims in this opinion, but you would never know that. The squeaky wheels get the grease, and certain widows belonging to certain organizations are mighty squeaky.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on our country, the families of those who perished on that day became forever linked through our shared anguish and grief. But "the 9/11 families" are not a monolithic group that speaks in one voice, and nothing has made that more clear than the controversy over the Bush campaign ads.
It is one thing for individual family members to invoke the memory of all 3,000 victims as they take to the microphone or podium to show respect for our collective loss. It is another for them to attempt to stifle the debate over the future direction of our country by declaring that the images of 9/11 should be off-limits in the presidential race, and to do so under the rubric of "The Families of Sept. 11." They do not represent me. Nor do they represent those Americans who feel that Sept. 11 was a defining moment in the history of our country and who want to know how the current or future occupant of the Oval Office views the lessons of that day.
She then goes on to make a very salient point, one which I wanted to address from the start:
bq. The images of Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville have been plastered over coffee mugs, T-shirts, placemats, book covers and postage stamps, all without a peep from many of these family members. I suspect that the real outrage over the ads has more to do with context than content. It's not the pictures that disturb them so much as the person who is using them.
Precisely. After all, as I mentioned yesterday, the 9/11 Victims Assocation is aligned with Moveon.org and Democracy Now!, two strong anti-Bush organizations. This hardly makes their motive here altruistic. Don't be fooled. These people aren't concerned about feelings, memories or painful reminders. No, they are just on a crusade against Bush getting re-elected.
Burlingame says about those who purport to represent 9/11 families:
bq. They are "9/11 family members" and therefore enjoy the cloak of deference that has been graciously conferred upon them by the public, politicians and, most significantly, the media.
In fact, I have viewed this specific, limited faction of family members as more of a lobbying group than anything else.
9/11 belongs to all of us. Nobody owns it. Nobody has control to the rights over pain, tears, sorrow, anger or memories. Nobody, not even a group of women who think they can run roughshod over your feelings has the right to speak for you.
bq. The leader of a lobbying group advised individuals at a 9/11 family meeting shortly after the attacks: "Make no mistake, you have a lot of power. Politicians are more afraid of you than you know." They know. As "relatives of 9/11 victims," they are virtually immune to challenge on the issue of who should have the loudest voice regarding the legacy of this national tragedy.
You have a lot of power.
And now they are using that power to practically run a presidential campaign on the platform of sympathy.
bq. We should not tolerate or condone remarks such as those of the 9/11 relative who, so offended by the campaign ads, said that he "would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush." The insult was picked up and posted on Al-Jazeera's Web site. In view of the sacrifice our troops have made on our behalf, this insensitivity to them and their families suggests a level of self-indulgence and ingratitude that shocks the conscience.
They are lobbyists, these people. They have an agenda, and it is not one based on carrying on the memories of their loves ones. It is a political agenda, and - to me, at least - that sours any emotion at all I carried for the members of this group.
Burlingame is right. 9/11 belongs to all of us. Every one of us. We all suffered, we all felt fear and panic. We all cried and carried the sorrow of 3,000 families. I lost people I knew that day. My family was traumatized. She
lost a dear friend. He
saw the first plumes of smoke from his seat on the train. His uncle
was on one of the planes. He
was there. He
was lucky to make it out alive.
Did anyone ask those people their opinions? Did the people who call themselves The Families of September 11th
ask if they could go around representing the feelings and needs of every single family member of every victim? Probably not. And for them to go around demanding that Bush's ad be taken off the air, campaigning for John Kerry and saying ignorant things about voting for Saddam under the guise of that name is tantamount to usurping someone's grief. And you, the American public, are being duped by those people. They are guilting you, shaming you, into rallying behind them. They are using their victimization as a tool to get you to vote a certain way in November. They have become master manipulators of the media and the public.
All of these people
have stories to tell. 9/11 belongs to them, as well. It belongs to the shopkeeper who lost his business. It belongs to people who lost bosses, teachers, teammates, clients. It belongs to everyone who felt fear, sadness or anger. No one has the right to herd everyone into one small compartment and say it's for your own good.
I am as angry now as I was in the days right after 9/11. We are being taken advantage of. We are being used. Peaceful Tomorrows and the 9/11 Victims Association and even, to some extent, the IAFF are playing us for all it's worth. They want to use our empathy to further their political motivations.
Burlingame closes with this:
bq. George W. Bush says that his presidency is inspired by an enduring obligation to those who lost their lives on that brutal September morning. The images of that day stand as an everlasting example of our country's darkest day and finest hour. They are a vivid reminder of the strength and resilience of our great country. They belong to us all--including this president. Let the candidates make their own choices. I trust the American people.
The left accuses the right of politicizing 9/11. Seems to be that most of the politicizing is being done by those who are complaining loudest about the ads. After all, when the people who demand the ads be removed are actively campaigning against
the president and for
his opponent, the pot is talking to the kettle.
[Update on this post here
project is an ongoing collection of personal stories dealing with 9/11. New entries are always welcome.