New Jersey politicians want to teach children the wrong lessons about 9/11
Though couched in admirable language, suggesting that its whole purpose is to ensure that schoolchildren born afterward are taught honest, "age-appropriate" lessons about 9/11, the real purpose of a recent New Jersey education bill is to deny the genuine meaning and impact of the attacks. It would be better if would reinstall the ideas and values that collapsed with the towers that day.
The closing section of the bill requires that schools provide, "strategies for teaching tolerance and accepting and embracing people of different religions and cultures," and "each public school shall annually organize a school commemorative event that will enhance student awareness of the events of September 11, 2001. In addition to providing students with information concerning the events of September 11, 2001, the commemorative event shall provide students with age-appropriate opportunities for discussion on conflict resolution, diversity, and tolerance for people of different religions and cultures."
The act explicitly mandates lessons in "accepting and embracing people of different religions and cultures" and "conflict resolution, diversity and tolerance." These sound exactly like what the terrorists who attacked us needed, but the words are not directed at them. They are directed at the victims of their attack; they're directed at us.
"It is imperative that we educate our students on topics related to this day, such as tolerance and diversity," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex/Morris), said, "so that they can grow up without the prejudices that arose in many Americans 20 years ago."
There you have it: twenty years on, and the final lesson of 9/11, the one we must share during school-wide anniversary commemorations, is to beware of American intolerance and hate.
Notably, there is nothing in the bill that refers to the terrorists' fanaticism, "prejudice," and intolerance. In fact, they are pretty much absent from the bill. The great danger, evidently, comes not from ideologically driven terrorists, but from us.
Despite what our self-appointed betters like Codey want us to believe, post-9/11 Americans did not direct systematic bigotry at Muslims. And the few genuine incidents, including actual physical attacks, were so rare and isolated and without any connection to America at large that the "prejudices" can only be attributed, by objective and fair-minded people, to the individual perpetrators responsible — and personal responsibility was exactly what mayors, presidents, and media pundits urged us to consider when thinking about Islam and Muslims in connection with September 11.
Image: September 11, 2001. National Park Service.
That's also what we were told after each and every bloody attack upon Americans after 9/11: Ft. Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, the West Side bicycle path car attack, each attack by Muslim terrorists who, inspired by global jihad networks, slaughtered scores more of Americans and injured additional hundreds.
These attacks were, by any measure, far worse than any prejudice Americans exhibited against Muslims. Yet suggest there is a strain of "Westernphobia" in Islam, and you'll be slammed as Islamophobic.
This is how it works: every single act of violence and hate any American commits against anyone is a reflection upon the conscience of America. No act targeting Americans by foreign, non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian, undemocratic (that's a big factor) people is the responsibility of any person or culture beyond the perpetrators involved.
The new bill, for young minds, allows us to diminish the true meaning and magnitude of the attacks and indoctrinate children with the same nonsense that generations prior were force-fed and that a single day, September 11, rendered obsolete with the cost of thousands of lives. Americans (and the West in general), they're taught, are inherently intolerant and founders of all evil and conflict in this world. The only real threat to our freedoms and safety comes from within.
How, in fact, did "prejudiced" Americans respond to Islamist attacks?
The day after a May 2010 Times Square car bomb attempt by a Muslim terrorist, New Yorkers, as they had for years, lined up at lunchtime at the Halal Guys food vendor carts, all of which sported Arabic script and played Arabic music — carts where the Muslim vendors might be found several times a day on their knees, facing east on their mats, praying, undisturbed by the passing and utterly indifferent crowds.
This tolerance existed even though, if that bomb had detonated, some of those in that line might have been killed or maimed — even though, less than a decade earlier, they had experienced their city under attack. Some of the people in line, undoubtedly, were at the World Trade Center and escaped with their lives or lost co-workers, friends, or family. And even though the firehouse around the corner featured the names of the 15 men lost on September 11.
Here is what we need to teach our children and young people about 9/11: a foreign enemy wantonly attacked an unprepared and unsuspecting America. They were motivated greatly by a fanatical and historical intolerance of "different religions and cultures." Thousands of innocents were brutally, unjustifiably, and irrationally murdered. There were great heroism and sacrifice in response, followed by a great outpouring from across America of concern, compassion, and generosity — including, under the circumstances, a remarkable and admirable spirit of tolerance and acceptance of people of different religions and cultures that today can be held up as a lesson to the rest of the world.
On 9/11, my brother, Capt. Billy Burke, FDNY, gave his life at the WTC.