by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 looms large in the wake of the catastrophe in Afghanistan. Much has changed in these past two decades. …
… One thing has not changed. Still intact but more anti-American than ever is the American education system. This is the behemoth that will school the children of the tens of thousands of largely unvetted Afghan nationals who filled flights out of Kabul.
Thought of that sent me hunting through notebooks and journals for comments jotted down about some of the events marking the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. One series of notes applies here. It was a log of observations made at the exhibition “9/11: Through Young Eyes” at Manhattan’s DC Moore Gallery in September 2011.
The exhibition was a collaborative series of 31 narrative collages by then-eighth graders at the progressive Calhoun School on New York’s Upper West Side. They were toddlers in 2001, too young for any recollections of their own. Their interpretation of the day was an exercise in political mythology that illustrated what they had been taught.
A quarter of the panels—a full eight—preened themselves on the sly implication that America is just one more rogue state. There were no references to al-Qaeda or enemy assault. Instead, cartoon Marines head to Afghanistan. Bombs drop on Afghanistan. A soldier lectures on “bad” Arabs. Americans start “using the flag as a symbol of war.”
One panel growled: “War was glorified and commercialized.” Such wording hardly came unprompted from the mouths of babes who seem never to have heard the word jihad. In context, the censure applied not to fanatics who shout “Allahu Akbar” in bloody ecstasy but to Americans.
That and similarly weighted captions sacrificed historical understanding to bien pensant avoidance of the obvious. Viewers were expected to applaud the program for its enlightened refusal to see evil anywhere but at home.