As the Czar has pointed out (and Mark Steyn hath philippicked upon), America seems to have a bit of a problem processing what 9/11 was, a decade on. Is it a celebration of the resilient American spirit, is an Oprahfied bathosfest, is it a wallowing in collective shame (as the loathsome, odious Paul Krugman would have it), or is it something else?
For most of us, one hopes, it's something else. A day for looking death and a harsh world in the face, a day of mourning the prematurely dead, a day of gratitude for the sacrifices (often unto death) of the heroes who risk their lives for our sake, and a day for introspective pondering the meanings of these hard and dispiriting truths, mostly in the context of our religious traditions.
But, the Volgi must point out, returning to the vexillological point of departure, it is one other thing. It was the opening of a war which we are still fighting and will continue to fight for the foreseeable future. It's the day the awful, grim responsibility of defending ourselves became perfectly clear. The day our decade or more of averting our eyes from this particular enemy was shown to be the delusional folly it always was. Most Americans understood this, though some chose to continue to take refuge in dreams and tell themselves that somehow it was our fault and therefore in our power to avoid. That the villains and murderous warmongers were Americans with whom they differed on political issues, not the men pledging to kill them on television and their death-cult cheering sections handing out candy in the streets, joyful at the incineration of people they'd never met.
Ten years on, many fewer people seem publicly committed to the War on…well, that's part of the problem, isn't it? It's not a clear-cut war, more of a global terrorist hunt with more conventional battles in various theaters. People are tired, many American soldiers have died, and seven years of hearing how it was all a put-up job prosecuted with war crimes aforethought and villainous American servicemen wronging innocents has taken its toll.
And yet, a war it remains. We have no choice but to fight on until al-Qâ’ida is nothing but an evil memory, and similar organizations are cowed from attempting similar atrocities (though such and worse may be inevitable). Moreover, we need to dissuade other actors from thinking we are too weakened or too committed to this war to thwart their aggressive designs on us in terrible fashion.
So the Volgi flies a war flag. Not because he loves war, but because he hates it but sees no practical way to prevent future attacks on us than defeating, convincingly, those who have attacked us in the past. The Volgi flies a war flag to prick the memory of passersby that ten years ago, we not only suffered an enormity, but that we were reluctantly dragged into a battle from which, alas, we may not yet rest.