I remember the morning almost five years ago. Mojo was still sleeping but the alarm had gone off and I'd heard some wierd things on the radio. I stood in the bright living room in the peaceful North Portland sunlight and watched nightmare occur on live television. I called my history teacher friend and remember shouting "This is Pearl Harbor! Dammit, this is a day that will live in infamy!"I knew what I wanted to do, and felt like I could do. I burned like flame, hot and clean and sure. All I needed was a leader to tell me how to help catch the bastards that had attacked my country and killed my countrymen.
I knew there was backstory - that the attacks didn't just happen. I knew that my country hadn't been pure of heart in its dealings with the Middle East. At that moment none of that mattered. Regardless of what had happened in the past...now it was personal. I was ready to bear any burden: to fight, to give of my time and money and whatever my country called forth from me to give, to hunt down and punish the evil bastards that planned that day.
Every anniversary since then I've felt smaller, weaker, less certain and more confused, less fierce and more helpless.
My country has asked me and my neighbors for nothing. My brothers in arms fight on long past the time it took to end the great world wars, for a nation whose concern largely begins and ends with a made-in-China plastic magnet slapped onto a piece of sheet metal and forgotten to slowly gather road grime and fade in the sun and rain.
As I watched in horror, my "leaders" used that infamous day to divide liberals from conservatives, poor from rich, republicans from totalitarians.
I have watched the symbol of that day go from a flag raised above battered firefighters...
...to a hooded man on an MRE box and Oakley-masked, hard-faced troopers patrolling between still-shattered buildings in Ramadi.
I have watched people around the world turn from us, disgusted or sickened by our willingness to use that day to excuse our most infamous actions. I have ended a career I loved rather than let my family suffer the strain of an endless "war" without a vision or a foreseeable victory.
Five years on, the smoke from the fallen towers now looks like more like a pyre of the hope, honor and pride of the "Arsenal of Democracy".
Today let us pledge ourselves not to be distracted by hubris, greed and lies from the pursuit of those who killed the thousands of innocents. Let us resolve to be ever more vigilant of our own liberty in the face of those enemies who would want us to destroy those liberties.
Let us resolve that those who died that day did not die so that lies and excuses could make our country more violent, more aggressive and more secretive, but rather, as a better American than I once said:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion... — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."