Without shared sacrifice we don't have a shared memory of that terrible day 10 years ago and the subsequent "war on terror."
Indeed, 9/11 is remembered as the day the Twin Towers fell in a heap of destruction.
Ground Zero refers only to site of the former World Trade Center.
The attacks on the Pentagon or Flight 93 barely course through the memory banks.
Millions of Americans are grateful that tough-talking George W. Bush personally caught the bastard behind the attacks: Saddam Hussein.
But, how could that be since we have a Hussein in the White House? One who wasn't even born in America?
And, are we still in Afghanistan?
Some call it the "fog of war."
In America, it's called the smog of shopping.
Some of us can recall that after the terrorists slammed our planes into our landmarks, Junior told Americans to do their patriotic duty: Shop 'til you drop.
We did and, now, our credit cards are maxed out.
Junior didn't ask us to enlist to fight al Qaeda. He didn't ask us to pay for the doubling of our military budget from $300 billion to $600 billion. He didn't ask us to pay for two wars. He didn't ask much of anything.
Life should just go on as it did before 9/11, we were told. Move along.
Well, we did.
And, look where we are: Trudging on in a ravaged economy, caused primarily by the lords of finance; enduring sustained high unemployment; engaging in two endless foreign wars; and wallowing in a political civil war at home.
Is that the price of victory over the terrorists?
Did we really win?
Would we have been better off if the terrorists had destroyed Wall Street?
These are questions without satisfactory answers.
It's depressing that these questions need to be asked. They certainly weren't asked after World War II.
The difference is leadership. We had it during WWII, we didn't have it during most of the "war on terror."
The sacrifice was shared during WWII. It wasn't for the past decade.
Frank Rich wrote a devastating 9/11 essay in New York magazine that asks: "If we don't need new taxes to fight two wars, why do we need them for anything."
That's exactly what Republicans and teabaggers are saying: We didn't have to raise taxes to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan for 10 years, so we obviously don't need taxes for disaster relief, Social Security, Medicare or even the Postal Service.
The rational mind knows that if we're spending a trillion dollars a year on defense, and wars, without added revenue to pay for them, we'll rack up a fairly substantial debt in 10 years.
But, the beauty of it all, I suppose, is that we aren't entirely rational whenever it comes to taxes and spending, or wars for that matter.
We let "someone else," usually the less fortunate, go off and die or become permanently scarred by our current wars. No need for a draft, we were told, otherwise the wars would become more unpopular than they are.
We let "someone else," like the Chinese, finance our ridiculous low-tax/high-spending lifestyle. No need to change our ways because we're Americans, damn it, we don' have to.
We let "someone else," like the working class and the poor, shoulder most of the brunt of the Great Recession.
The 9/11 decade also brought back the 1950s in its political correctness, witch hunts and a general embrace of ignorance.
In Bend, after the Newport Avenue bridge was renamed the "Veterans Memorial Bridge," a group of citizens wanted to rename a lesser-used Deschutes River span at Portland Avenue "A Bridge to Peace." The backlash was stunning, as if the mere naming of a bridge after peace was tantamount to an act of war.
Writers and others around the country were fired for challenging the party line that the "war on terror," which includes torture, is not entirely ethical or moral.
As for ignorance, we have "truthers," "birthers," and Michelle Bachmann.
"Truthers," those who believe 9/11 was an inside government job to promote endless wars, offer a tantalizing theory because we do have endless wars.
However, 9/11 happened because of gross negligence and incompetence by our government led by Junior and Cheney, who, shortly after taking office, completely disregarded a bipartisan report that al Qaeda was determined to attack the United States. Hell, Junior even got an urgent memo a month before the hijackings saying that such attacks, using jets to slam into buildings, were imminent.
But, of course, none of that matters now. Junior is retired in Texas. Cheney is out promoting his view that everything is better now because of him and Junior.
But, it isn't.
We all know it isn't. At least we should know.
Therein lies our troubles.
Many Americans can't distinguish fantasy from reality.