09/11/2010 12:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obligatory Memorial

You're going to read a lot of these today. It's actually in the blogger manual, we're required to comment. So here goes:

On this date in 2001, I skipped math class and got away with it.

Ok, ok. Also on this date, I watched 19 religious fundamentalists do heart-breaking damage to the United States, then spent the next several years watching the United States government do everything in its power to make things much worse than they had to be.

There will never be a time when we will have a completely physically secure nation. There will never be a time when we will have finally killed the last terrorist. There will never be a time when we are perfectly safe.


But what we did after 9/11 was give a bunch of relatively unsophisticated people an incredible amount of power - by giving away our sense of perspective.

Even including 9/11, you are much, much, much more likely to die from lightning strikes than you are from terrorism. You are more likely to die from being hit by a subway car - a figure that pretty much only includes suicides - than from terrorism. Nonetheless, we don't live in morbid terror of lightning strikes or streetcars. Nor do we let the rumble of thunder terrify us into trading away our essential values - or spending trillions on aggressive wars against nebulous enemies.

I grew up in an America that took it for granted that we do not torture people. That individual citizens have fundamental, inalienable rights, even if they are an "enemy combatant." That we do not lie to the world to invade nations unilaterally - that aggressive wars are what the bad guys do. In short, I grew up fairly certain that America was a little stupid, a little clumsy, but most certainly a "good guy." Perhaps some aggressive tendencies - but a good guy nonetheless.

Terrorism could never have destroyed the United States, the most powerful and richest nation in history, but one act of terrorism - and the response it provoked - went a long way towards destroying that America.

So on this "Patriot's Day," when they say never forget, be sure that you don't. Don't forget that at our best we are better than "extraordinary rendition." Don't forget that we are better than xenophobia and racism. Don't forget that we are better than waterboarding and "enhanced interrogation." Don't forget that this place was built on fundamental values for ALL people at ALL times in ALL places - liberty, justice, and freedom for all.


And don't ever let anyone - terrorist, Republican, Democrat, whomever - take those values away from you.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

That is my America - and yours too. An America that we've often aspired to, that we've rarely attained, but one that is always worth working for. We are stronger than terrorism. And we are stronger than fear.

Never forget.

And fucking vote.

*UPDATE* As it turns out, Ted Koppel said it first and said it better.

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