The most important essay you’re likely to read this week is Edward Rothstein’s examination of the themes and emotions evoked by the commemorations of 9/11:

Like theologians after the catastrophic 18th-century Lisbon earthquake, who saw the wages of sin in the disaster, many intellectuals didn’t wait long to assert that this blowback was payback. This is why this attack is often mischaracterized as tragedy, a drama that unfolds out of the flaws or failings of its victim.

Essentially, it is the conversion of 9/11 from an act of wanton destruction and murder to a moment requiring an examination of our own sins. And the counsel of the White House is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the whole business:

Indeed, so anxious is the White House to filter out any historical aspects of Sept. 11 that it proclaims this anniversary “the third official National Day of Service and Remembrance.” It should be used to encourage “service projects” and a “spirit of unity.” Through such demonstrations, the memos affirm, our communities can withstand “whatever dangers may come — be they terrorist attacks or natural disasters.”

If that is the sense the national leadership finds in that day, why should we expect much more from cultural commemorations than miscellany, euphemism, self-effacement and self-blame?

Read it and weep. Literally.

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