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Theirs, Mine, Ours

This is a continuation of yesterday's discussion about the 9/11 widows and the Bush ads. Please read here for context. 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]
The Voices project is an ongoing collection of personal stories dealing with 9/11. New entries are always welcome.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Theirs, Mine, Ours:

» They Don't Speak For Me, Either from Dean's World
Debra Burlingame, the widow of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, who was captain of American Airlines flight 77 (the one that crashed into the Pentagon),... [Read More]

» What She Said (Updated) from blogoSFERICS
Michele slam-dunks the pinheads tut-tutting over President Bush's campaign ads and the 9/11 imagery contained therein. My comment: "Indeed." UPDATE:... [Read More]

» Brought to you by Move On... from Inoperable Terran
Here's more on the politicization of the Terror Widows. Unsuprisingly, the anti-Bush ones are collecting money from MoveOn and Soros.... [Read More]

» Two sides to every story from Arguing with signposts...
Michele has many words about the "Families of 9/11" who are castigating Bush for using images from that day in a campaign commercial. I'm glad to see other "family members" speaking out against this. And Michele is right: 9/11 belongs... [Read More]

» Possession from Andrew Olmsted dot com
Anyone who has ever worked in groups is well aware of how difficult it can be to get even a small number of people to agree on an issue. For all the assumptions that the military is a bastion of... [Read More]

» Aww, isn't that cute? from it comes in pints?
It's so funny when two-year-olds stamp their little feetsies and throw little hissy fits and temper tantrums. I've no doubt that the organization Military Families Speak Out represents actual military families in the same way that the 9/11 Victims Asso... [Read More]


It was great to see this piece--I said much the same thing in relation to yesterday's post. The bad news: apparently, to speak to a nationwide audience on 9/11 and its mis/appropriation one needs to be innoculated by having lost a brother AND being a "lifelong Democrat."

This reminds me of an argument I had in college with a Jewish friend (I'm not). We were talking about the Holocaust, and Dana said that only Jews could really understand the Holocaust, really feel the magnitude of its evil. I countered that she was essentially telling gentiles not to even try to empathize with the millions of victims, since we could "never know." I said this was an immense human tragedy, that belonged to no one group alone.

When you have to claim membership in a microconstituency to have the right to address a topic of common interest to all, we are dead as a society and a nation.

When you have to claim membership in a microconstituency to have the right to address a topic of common interest to all, we are dead as a society and a nation.

And as a civilization.

I guess the message the Democrats want to beat into us is that the war on terror has nothing to do with 9/11. Don't dare mention 9/11 in relation to any Bush policy.

You have to be an idiot to believe that message, but idiots vote too.

Odd, isn't it, since Democrats certainly have no trouble with the linking of FDR and Pearl Harbor?

Krauthammer said something in his piece I did not know. FDR visited Pearl Harbor as his 1944 campaign kicked off. It was certainly appropriate for him to do so, but using the democrats' standards today that visit would be the mother of all sins.

Only two words this time around: thank you.

I've read all the arguments and quotes and discussions and snarks, and I still think it's wrong to use 9/11 as a hammer by either side, and I wish Bush had left it alone, as he said he would over a year ago. I'm especially disappointed by Michele's ferocious embrace of Bush's ads, as I found her 9/11 rememberance project to be respectfully non-political. It's a shame.

What's a shame? That I think it's ok for Bush to point out the defining moment of his presidency in a campaign speech?

It would have been a slap in the face to many people if he did not bring up 9/11, whether through words or images.

Two questions. Is it the liberal media that is calling Bush out on this, or is it families of victims. If the latter, I think they have that right? But the "liberal media" has probably blown it out of proportion.

Secondly, why does Bush request that soldiers/ Americans caskets not be shown on news and such, but he uses one in his ad? Seems a touch hypocritical.

But as I have told others, I do want to know what this President plans on doing about terrorism. If I were that stiff Kerry I would ask him first thing to tell the "American People" about his plans to combat terorism, since, you know, he allowed it to happen in the first place.

Michele: No, it's a shame that Bush is using images of 9/11 in an ad campaign to get himself re-elected. Especially after he said he wouldn't make it an issue.

I know why you defend it; I already said I've read everything you've posted carefully. None of it changes my mind. And I doubt I'm gonna change yours, so there we are.

Did you catch Guiliani on Meet the Press yesterday? He basically gets it.

The transcript is here: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4456277/
that was supposed to be a link.

So, Jason, how do we not make 9/11 an issue?

That is THE elephant in the room.

Would you prefer Viet Nam?

Well, Sandy, I think a better "defining moment" for Bush would be the speech he gave after 9/11, which I found impressive and moving. Why not run that sucker in his ads? Or even his bullhorn speech? Those were about Bush as a leader, not bodies being pulled from the rubble.

Again, I'm not gonna change my view on this.

Demanding to know whether I "prefer Viet Nam" is a point I'm not going to even bother replying to.

Crud, Sorry, that was me above..(new laptop, not used to this keyboard)


I just wanted to say thank you.

I tried to comment twice yesterday, but both times I just sounded angry, and felt that maybe I was feeling so strongly because my husband is headed to Afghanistan, so I left it alone.

You said it much more eloquently than I ever could. So thank you.

That's not correct to say that 9/11 families haven't objected to the use of the imagery on "coffee mugs, T-shirts, placemats, book covers and postage stamps."

There have been a number of attempts to try to restrict vendors around the WTC that sell succh items, other than the postage stamps.

I don't see how having the image on book covers is the same thing as putting it in a political ad.

We should try to be intellectually honest while talking about these things.

I'm not a regular here, but Michele, ever stop to think that maybe you're on the wrong side of politics? In my opinion, there's usually only 2 types of conservatives: Those who are way up in the conservative food chain and realize full well that they lie to everyone daily in an attempt to turn a bigger profit, and those who are lower down in the conservative foodchain and are either A. too stupid to realize that they're being lied to, or B. in it because their religion has turned them into a socially conservative bigot.
I like some of the cute blogging you do like the egg thing, but for the most part I stay away from your blog. No offense, but more often it just seems like a gathering for ditto heads who can't think for themselves.

Well, dax, if your mind's that closed, you're best off staying away. We wouldn't want you to tax yourself by considering the validity of others' opinions.

Two questions:
1: Are the The Families of September 11th actually family members of victims of those who died on 9/11? And,
2: If they are, how is this attack on them any different than Ted Rall's "Widows" cartoon, other than the ideology of the attacker?

I'll tell you, Wally.

I am referring to a very specific, small group of widows who claim leadership of The Families of September 11th.

Also, I accused the women in question of having a political agenda, not a monetary one.

Dax, considering Michele is an atheist and NOT a conservative, under your definition, she does think for herself.

And love the lib condescension BTW. OF COURSE if we just explain it to you in simple terms and words of 2 syllables or less, terms which A CHILD could understand, how could you NOT agree with my superior intellect and wisdom?

Being on the "right" side of politics does not mean one is on the right side of other matters. Wouldn't be the 1st time the "right" side of politics was wrong, especially when studies and/or history/human nature support reality.

Sometimes it is simplisme and "nuance" paralyzes action.

Sorry, Michele, that isn't enough.

I've stopped here long enough to know that 9/11 is your biggest issue in the coming election, and that that's not demagoguery on your part. You feel it.

But you can't have it both ways. You can't call someone out for an attack on one group, and then mirror that attack on a similar group. Family member's motivation is irrelevant.

Dax, once upon a time the smug pseudo-intellectuals thought Stalin was on the "right" side of history.

Some of them still do.

Let's put this in a way you might understand, Wally.

Six months after 9/11, Ted Rall prints a comic that depicts the firemen's widows as money hungry women who are reveling in the deaths of their husbands because it's going to make them rich.

I speak out against that vile comic.

Two years after 9/11, I write about a tiny group of family members who are casting themselves about as representative of all the victims' families when they clearly are not. It is fact that their agenda is to get John Kerry elected president. All their posturing and bitching about the ads is not because of grief, it's not because of loss; it's because it gave them an excuse to knock Bush and to do it in the name of people who do not feel the same way.

Are we seeing the difference yet, Wally?

dax, you do some pretty cute posting your own self (in fact, this one was downright precious), so give that person in the mirror an extra hug.

others might say there are 1. successfull entrepreneurs and 2. folks with values different than yours. too bad they ain't tolerant like you.

michelle, i agree with you totally. these people simply want a nuetered bush re-election campaign.
i think they essentially want the debate to be about vietnam service because kerry's record is easily attackable. 9-11 changed everyone, and right now i have no idea how it affected most people. mike moore's "payback tuesday" ended up being a joke, but i can't say that's an indicator for how this election will turn out.

Yeah, Michele, don't you know that bad things are wrong? Listen to Dax!

9-11 Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow is funded by Kerry (er, well, his wife... it is all her money anyway)

JasonD writes:

I've read all the arguments and quotes and discussions and snarks, and I still think it's wrong to use 9/11 as a hammer by either side, and I wish Bush had left it alone, as he said he would over a year ago. I'm especially disappointed by Michele's ferocious embrace of Bush's ads, as I found her 9/11 rememberance project to be respectfully non-political. It's a shame.

I don't recall him saying any such thing. Maybe you are thinking of his comments in January 2003, which were in reference to his proposal for sharply increased military spending, not 9/11. This fairy tale seems to have originated with the aptly-named Daily Mis-Lead. It's crap like this that makes me forget about Bush's almost continual domestic policy missteps and makes me almost eager to vote for him this fall (shudder). Are these jokers Rove agents?


A heartfelt THANKS for your post. Very well said. I, too, am as angry now as I was in the days right after 9/11; in fact, the anger burns brighter than ever.