The United States of America observed the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on us in myriad ways and in myriad places yesterday, and as far as I can tell no observances were interrupted by further attacks by Islamo-fascist fanatics.
New York City and Washington D.C., two of the targets in the original attacks were on high alert after federal officials said they received information from credible sources that the observances would be targeted ... but nothing happened. That could be due to the high level of security of course, but nothing happened in the rest of the country either.
Here in my little community the second week in September has marked Harvest Fair weekend for more than 40 years and it's a pretty big deal. On really good years the attendance at our fairgrounds has approached a quarter-million visitors over the course of 4 days, which is a lot of people to pack into a small place.
Other fairs ran in the waning weeks of August in this area, which is harvest time in New England, there are more coming in the next few weeks, and of course the big state fairs got a lot of attention from visiting politicians in the summer.
Starting Friday The Big E, which is shorthand for the Eastern States Exposition will open for its annual run, which goes until Oct. 2 this year in Springfield, Massachusetts. It too will see hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the northeast and beyond.
This is what we do in the Northeast, and Midwest and elsewhere at this time of year, and it is exactly what we should continue doing. I remember someone saying 10 years ago that the best way to defeat terrorism is to not let it force us into cowering in our homes like frightened weaklings, but instead we should go shopping, in other words, do the things we normally do.
My family attended the fair on two days this year, partly to get some fair food, partly because I was invited to sell books with the New England Horror Writers - books on war and elder abuse qualify as "horror" even if they are non-fiction - and partly because my youngest daughter entered one of her hand-painted gourds in the Arts and Crafts competition.
(She won a blue ribbon. Photo below. Please allow me a moment to be a proud father.)
My daughter, who is 17 now, started painting gourds like this one, titled Lilacs, about three years ago. She bought her first practice gourds from a farm in California then starting growing her own in our family garden out back.
Once the gourds are harvested they have to be cured outdoors over the winter and the following year they are cleaned and ready for painting. She has a great eye and a steady hand and has produced dozens of varying sizes on a range of themes.
This is part of our art requirement for her home schooled curriculum. Anyway, in addition to bragging a bit - my oldest daughter just graduated from nursing school so it's been a great couple of weeks for the Winter family - I just wanted to point out that even though most Americans aren't directly engaged in fighting terrorists, we as a country are doing our part to defeat them.
Or more to the point, at least we are doing our part to not let them defeat us.
I don't know whether the threats against Washington and New York were real or just something to get us unsettled, but the fact is, nothing happened. The ceremonies and remembrances were poignant, the people who were murdered a decade ago were properly honored, and life went on as it is intended.
We still have a long way to go in this war, and if you were reading this column several years ago when I first started writing it, you may recall that I said it would take at least 60 years to put an end to it. I broke that down into 20 years of direct combat, and 20 years to demonstrate to societies that would wage war on us that our methodology is better and to stamp out any remaining pockets of terrorism, and finally 20 years for a new generation to completely forget that terrorism in the name of religion actually was advocated and practiced.
Americans aren't used to grinding it out over the long haul, we like to fight our wars, defeat a discernible enemy and get back to business as usual. But war isn't like that any longer.
Virtually every military in the world knows it can't defeat us in a head-to-head confrontation so the enemies of freedom and democracy have changed to terrorism, attempting to wear the populace down by unceasing attacks on the weakest and most vulnerable targets.
Fortunately our military has taken the fight to the terrorists and for most of the past 10 years we have kept large scale attacks at bay, despite incident such as the Ft. Hood shooting and others. The last time I was updated, which was some time ago, I was told that our military had sent more than 50,000 potential terrorists to their version of paradise - and that's a good thing.
It doesn't mean the war is over, and I still maintain that we have at least two generations of struggle ahead of us. But we have been eminently successful to this point.
As long as we keep doing what Americans do, and long as our spirits stay high and our willpower stays strong we will prevail regardless of how long it takes. In the meantime, I recommend that you go out to a fair - ride the rides, try games of skill, admire the fruits of the harvest, the animals, the arts and crafts, the entertainment.
Defeat terrorism, have a good time!
Monday, September 12, 2011