The above person may be known to you. By name, anyway. By reputation, not so much. Once upon a time, he was a giant of our elected democracy, an elected Mayor entrusted with governing a major City, which duty he mostly exemplified.
But that was 20 years ago.
On his watch, terrorists steered hijacked aircraft into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon and were prevented from further destruction only by the heroic self-sacrifice of Flight 93’s heroes.
Rudy Giuliani was younger then, and so was our nation. We still lived by the founding ideals and fulfilled our oaths to the Constitution so exhaustingly forged and won then some 212 years prior. Even those who did not like our national politics did not contemplate subverting it. we were mindful of our nation’s victories in war and in peace, of our immigrant character, of our certainty that — as President Reagan put it — “our best days lie ahead.”
But that was then.
In the twenty years since that awful day in September, 2001, our nation has lived in fear — of another such attack ? Of our vulnerabilities ? Of the world beyond our shores ? Of ourselves ? maybe all four.
Not all of us live in such fear. Maybe half of all Americans still believe in the future.Maybe even more than half ? Yet the half, or almost half, who do not believe in the future have since 2001 spread their fears across the lives of all of us. Some of us feel that blanket of black more directly than others, yet all of us can smell its wool, its mildew, a blanket from the crypt of the crazed.
There is poison in it all. Poison to the soul, strychnine to the mind. Rudy Giuliani epitomizes its effects. We often blame Trump for unleashing these cyanides upon us, but there would have been no Trump but for the effects of 9/11, 2001. How else to explain the reduction of Giuliani ? A friend of Trump, he was already within Trump’s range of contagion. He could have left that circle of defeat. He could have said, as most of us would have, that no, I will not go down your road, your avenue of lies, of hate, of subversion of all we hold dear and which I once held dear.
He could have said all that. He did not.
He once knew better. On 9/11 he had been a hero, a front line, hands on Mayor of 8,000,000 people, citizens and visitors, immigrants and commuters. Why did he not continue to walk that path ? Why have so many millions of us also not walked it ?
The United States of America was founded by immigrants, created a nation by educated men who believed in the rights of all men, the equality of all, of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. President Washington invited immigrants of all stations of life. The Federal government enabled our infrastructure, our land grants, our public colleges, the Federal highway system, public electricity, the Federal Reserve System, a social safety net. It regulated our commerce, as empowered by the Constitution. Harder to win, the civil frights of all, yet by 1965 those legal rights were won for good and always.
It was a history worth celebrating, of ideals and purposes many of us gave our lives to advance. Most of my own life has been lived thereunder. I know the drill, and I celebrate it. I grew up proud to be an American. Grandson of immigrants who risked their all to come here nad be whatever they could strive to be.
The confidence of those founders, and of our immigrants : where is it ? Why have we misplaced it ?
Yet to all things there is, as the prophet has written, a season; and the life of nations is no exception to seasonality. It is clear now that, a mere 20 years after 9/11, America is fracturing. One half of us wants to advance into the future according to our ideals and in furtherance thereof. The other half wants to abolish all that we have lived these past 232 years.
That this other half pursues an entirely different future from the American mission is its right — I may be saddened by their mission, even angered by it, but it is their right to have. I get that they despise immigration; hate Jews and many other sorts of scapegoat-able people; demand to control women’s health care and bodies; eliminate the social safety net; and many other abolitions of all that we, of the other half, cherish. I get that they want these things., What I do not get — what I WILL NEVER accept — is their readiness to destroy our Constitutional democracy on the way to getting their way of things, or their readiness top consort with our national enemies — all manner of tyrants and charlatans around the world — as a mans of subverting and sabotaging the nation.
Rudy Giuliani has done all of the above.
He did all that in service to his friend Trump, or so we are told; yet as I see it, he did all that he did because he wanted to do them. He did them to satisfy himself — turned his back on all that he was and had been and on his reputation. Can anyone really believe that he did that because he was pushed to do it ? No. He did what he did because he has no self, no honor to which he is sworn, no commitment to any duty. To be a man one must live beyond the mere moment and outside the aroma of aladdin lamps. To be a man one must have principles for which one will say “no” to those who would abuse them.
Rudy has failed that test.
He is far from the only one to fail it.
The nation itself is failing it. In my opinion, no matter how hard the others of us struggle, there is no going back. We will have only a half future.
In the life of nations, half a loaf is not better than no loaf at all.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere