Was 9/11 A Day Without Politics? Was The Country Actually United?
On September 11, 2011, Presidents Bush and Obama—a Republican and a Democrat—stood side by side at Ground Zero. So did Mayors Bloomberg and Giuliani, and none of them were allowed to give a speech.
Instead, they read passages that were inspiring, broad reaching and, one might even optimistically say, uncontroversial. The air was filled with the names of victims, perhaps with a personal message attached. Musical tributes included superstars and a children’s chorus.
Even the 9/11 Truthers agreed to “tone down” their demonstrations.
For one day, was America able to put aside its differences, and briefly achieve the unity it experienced just after that terrible day?
Perhaps things were not so tranquil just below the surface. Internet commentators bickered over the causes of foreign wars. Many pundits railed against the exclusion of clergy at the 9/11 Memorial dedication and at a service in Washington. And while many used social media to dedicate messages of love and hope, some used it to reiterate baseless slander.
In one of the most high profile jabs, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman published a brief blog post entitled “The Years of Shame.” In it, he claims that the “memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned” by opportunistic politicians and media members, and that the anniversary “has become an occasion for shame.”
But in most newspapers and on Web pages that day, headlines stuck to reflection and remembrance; few relating to the anniversary mentioned any conflicts, and the shame that Krugman claimed was absent or unmentioned. At ceremonies all across the country, the bitter tone of the Internet’s dark corners stayed out. Krugman’s blog post was cynical and negative on a day when even the jaded held their tongues. The contrast showed just how united we could be, even for a brief moment.