Sunday, September 26, 2004

September 11, 2004; 9:50 AM

Three years ago I was in Lanesboro, Minnesota, eyes glued to a TV, watching the rude awakening of America, her swaggering arrogance punctured by four missiles of her own pride.

I'm in an airport. People seem chipper, the sun is shining, life goes on. I expect everyone's aware what day it is---you can hardly miss it if you turn on a TV---but most seem unaffected. At least, I've witnessed no open weeping or other obvious signs of remembered grief. But we were all deeply affected by what happened three years ago. Some---most?---of us simply don't recognize what happened to us, are ill-equipped to sense the signs of our own transformation. Grief, anxiety, and fearfulness are perhaps the least of the effects. Something more profound took place within us, some deep shift of our collective unconscious, or of conscience.

Loss of innocence, perhaps? Yes, in part. And America has lost her innocence, by degrees, over many occasions in the brief course of her history. But once you've lost your innocence---and by now, America is a far cry from that blushing virgin that even halfway into the last century she was---then you bear the mantle of adulthood and what was once out of your hands and understanding becomes thereafter your responsibility. Where once she buffed the bright apple of the knowledge of good and evil against her proud, young breast, allowing its seductive red temptation to hypnotize and beguile her, now she has bitten fiercely into its flesh, swallowed the bittersweet juice of desire and ground the pulp of consequence for attainment of that desire between her clean, white, even teeth.

There can be no claims of ignorance now, no wide-eyed apology or denial, nor insouciant swagger of youthful pride. Her eyes are open now. There is no return to Eden.


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