Anger seems, most often, to manifest itself as a negative emotion, doing little good while having the potential to do nearly limitless harm. But, like most such internal, subjective things, it does different things to different people, some not readily apparent.
Rage renders some people incoherent and others blind. It causes some to flare up--fiercely, but briefly--and then to burn out. In others, it does no more than instill sadness, and paralysis. Yet in Debra Burlingame--the 51-year-old sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame, the pilot of the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon by terrorists on September 11, 2001--rage has fueled eloquence, an impressively mulish obstinacy, and an almost eerie moral clarity.
Via Rand Simberg we find an interview with Ms. Burlingame in OpinionJournal, written by Tunku Varadarajan. Ms. Burlingame, more than any other individual, was responsible for Gov. Pataki's decision to scrap the "Freedom Center" from the World Trade Center memorial site.
He did so, it should be said, in response to the relentless pressure exerted by Ms. Burlingame and the Take Back the Memorial Movement, a coalition of little platoons of 9/11 family members assembled to boot the Freedom Center off Ground Zero. This is ground that Ms. Burlingame and numerous Americans regard as hallowed; for them, the Freedom Center's apparent mission--the establishment of an educational venue focused more squarely on such matters as the Native American genocide and the Jim Crow South than on the victims and perpetrators of 9/11--was pure anathema, proof not merely of leftist muddle-headedness but also of an elitist contempt for popular feeling.
It all started when Ms. Burlingame wrote an op-ed essay on 08 Jun of this year.
"Rather than a respectful tribute to our individual and collective loss," she wrote, "[we] will get a slanted history lesson, a didactic lecture on the meaning of liberty in a post-9/11 world . . . [and] a heaping foreign policy discussion over the greater meaning of Abu Ghraib and what it portends for the country and the rest of the world." She also asked whether it was seemly for the Freedom Center's advisory board to include members who had said, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House" (Columbia's Eric Foner).
...Her rage was irrefutable, and one got the sense, after her piece appeared in print, that the Freedom Center did not stand a chance.
"...When I talked to Tom Bernstein in person about what they were about to do at the center," Ms. Burlingame recounted, "he said to me, 'You know, 9/11, if we don't put it in a broader context, it will be forgotten. It will not stand the test of time if we do not put it in a broader historical context.' The arrogance of this was stunning. And when I told him that Ground Zero was, to the 9/11 family people, and especially the military, a sacred place, and that you cannot put anything on this site that ignores that, denigrates that, marginalizes that, or does not give it the acknowledgment that is due . . . he looked at me blankly. Completely blankly. They were trying to cut 9/11 out of it completely."
...By her account, Mr. Bernstein said, "Debra, we're calling on people from all sides of the political spectrum . . . very balanced . . . people who are very dignified." To which she responded, "Oh really! Tell me who you have that's conservative. And he replied, 'Fareed Zakaria' [editor of Newsweek International]. I squinched my face up and said, 'He's not conservative,' and Bernstein goes, 'Naah . . . he's not, yeah, you're right, he's not.' "
This gets to the heart of the problem: The Freedom Center's progenitors were convinced--utterly and adamantly--of their own reasonableness. In an inversion of the usual conditions of passion, the Forces of Rage--here, led by Ms. Burlingame--had an impressive clarity of vision; by contrast, the self-styled Forces of Reason were blinded by their own certitudes.
"...Anger can be very, very productive, as long as it's focused and you don't lose your mind. After the London bombings [in July], someone asked me, 'Have we become complacent? Do you miss 9/11, when people had more unity?' And I say, 'No, no, no. What I miss is the anger. And the clarity. That's what I miss.' "
The anger and the clarity. Yup, I agree completely—both were palpable in the days following the attack, only to slowly dissipate as less and less attention was paid by the Legacy Media. That's why I was happy to find the little Java/Flash animation now at the top of the left sidebar (hat tip to Bill Quick). Yes, it's free, if you want it for your own blog or website.
By "anger," though, I certainly don't mean the sort of hateful attitude typified by people like Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan—I mean exactly the sort of attitude Ms. Burlingame shows us. Keep the anger, but keep the clarity, too, which helps you to channel the anger in productive ways. We didn't have this sort of problem in the years following Pearl Harbor. We channelled our anger into steely determination to win a war. And Pearl Harbor has stood "the test of time" just fine, thank you very much.
But this war has become so politicized that this determination, born of anger, has nearly disappeared. We're letting the politicians lead it. Somehow, we've got to take the lead back.