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Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2001 / 11 Kislev, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Can't keep a good man down -- WHEN President Bush said this month that "out of evil can come great good," he put words to something Americans have come to understand since Sept. 11, watching and assisting the effort to rescue and restore, honor and avenge, assist, heal and donate to a wounded nation. If there has been an "awakening to service," as Bush takes pride in noting, there has also been an awakening of another kind: a realization that much of the good Americans are seeing in their country has been there all along.

One way this aspect becomes obvious, and painfully so, is to read through (or try to) the sketches of the dead that appear in The New York Times, day after day after day, as the newspaper fulfills an honorable mission to remember each of the nearly 5,000 human beings who died in the attack on the World Trade Center. (See

Reading these short pieces -- "glimpses," the newspaper calls them -- is not just a sobering exercise. It is an agonizing, angering and humbling one. In these very personal remembrances, we learn of the families, even the pets, left behind. We read about the teams these people used to coach, and the reunions they once organized. We become privy to the wedding invitations they didn't get the chance to send and the summer barbecues that will never be the same. We find out about the 9 a.m. meeting at Windows on the World, and the brand-new office on the 92nd floor -- all the particulars of chance and design that placed so many people at the center of the world on the morning of Sept. 11.

Amid all those who perished simply because they went to work, there also appear sketches of the 343 New York City firemen, the 37 Port Authority policemen and the 23 New York City policemen who perished trying to rescue them. These are the gallant ones, almost all of them men, who lived to serve and died doing so. And through these glimpses, we see into a world few outsiders are privy to: a place in the culture where it is not unusual for men to marry their high school sweethearts, follow their firemen-fathers into the force and, in general, live lives that, in certain basic ways, seem unchanged by the cultural revolutions of recent decades.

You might say, to paraphrase the president, out of evil can come an appreciation for great good. As further testament to these lost lives, such appreciation just might become an ennobling experience for us all. Acknowledging the selfless heroism of the men who kept climbing into the fire has already stirred a renewed respect, not to mention gratitude, for the old-fashioned virtues associated with what was once, a very long time ago, esteemed as "manliness." Courage. Duty. Endurance. Brotherhood. All the things that the corrosive elites -- the media, academia and the entertainment world -- have long undermined and vilified, if not eradicated, in society at large.

Writing in the left-wing weekly The Nation, Katha Pollitt correctly observes that the terrorism attacks and their aftermath "have definitely rehabilitated such traditional masculine values as physical courage, upper-body strength, toughness, resolve." But wrinkle your nose when you read her words for the proper inflection. Pollitt, who earlier in the season lamented her 14-year-old's sudden desire for a flag, is appalled by this revival and does what she can to pervert it. "The WTC attack is men vs. men -- firefighters and fanatics," she writes in one of the uglier bits of analysis to congeal in this crisis, adding: "(It would seem positively ungrateful to ask why, in a city half black and brown, the 'heroes' were still mostly white, and, for that matter, still mostly male.)" She continues: "You can see the gender skew everywhere, in the absence of female bylines in the Op-Eds about the war, in the booing of Hillary Clinton during the Concert for New York at Madison Square Garden, in the slavish eagerness of the media to promote the callow and inadequate Dubya as a strong leader whose 'cockiness' -- interesting word -- and swagger are just what Americans need in the hour of crisis."

Men vs. men, black, brown and white, "gender skews" and swagger: Talk about fanatics. It must be an unnerving experience to see life through such a cracked prism. Well worth remembering, though, is that, even through the black smoke and flame of the imploding towers, the heroes of Sept. 11 could still see a better world, one we would all do well to envision as we rebuild our lives from the ruins.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


11/20/01:Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West