It is nine years now since the day America lost its mind. Since the day a small band of hate-filled terrorists opened the door to madness, and our nation walked right through. Since the day when the entire world was moved to stand as one (a French newspaper proclaimed: "We are all Americans!") but we didn't notice because we were filled with grief, fear and rage.
For a moment on that day, we forgot our differences. Southern crackers and Detroit homeboys and Amarillo cowboys were all Americans, and all New Yorkers.
Sadly, it did not last. Nine years later we are a bitterly divided nation, bankrupted by seven years of war in Iraq and more than eight in Afghanistan, manipulated by political snake-oil salesmen into denying and abandoning the core values we profess to believe in order to protect the core values we profess to believe.
We fell victim to rage, were seduced by the dark side, and were led down a path paved with lies into warfare that, for many, may have felt good, but ultimately strengthened the enemy and led us to today, when "the terrorists have won" is arguably true.
We have lost our shirts and we have lost our souls.
I blame the news media.
Oh, there is plenty of blame to go around. We could blame the politicians and we could blame ignorance, but there will always be slimy politicians exploiting the crisis of the moment, and there will always be dense people who are not interested in facts.
But it's our responsibility. It is what we signed up for. We who are journalists are supposed to facilitate an informed conversation among the citizenry that leads to sound self-government. If that is our intent, we have measurably failed.
What has transpired is anything but sound self-government and not at all informed.
Nine years after the 9/11 attacks led by extremist Wahhabi terrorists, the average American doesn't know a Wahhabist from a Sufi. And to a loud minority that gets constant coverage, all Muslims, well over a billion people worldwide, are the enemy.
Television news in particular has failed to meet its journalistic responsibilities. Friday morning I saw all the network morning TV shows feature a crackpot hatemonger preacher from Gainesville, Florida, leader of a tiny and inconsequential sect, who planned to burn the holy book of Islam. He was thrown out by his little congregation in Germany, and half of his Florida group has abandoned him. He's a little bug in the big picture, but he was being treated as if he led some broad-based American anti-Muslim movement.
It's a carnival, a circus, a show, a fraud. We have plenty of air time for the drama and almost none for learning.
The cable networks are journalistic frauds, focusing on reinforcing prejudice in order to boost ratings, and all too often abandon even the pretense of seeking truth.
I have often pointed a finger at Fox News, a vile and deeply corrupt organization, but CNN and MSNBC also are guilty, if not equally.
I could blame the Internet, too. It is a neutral technology but the consequences of the global network are profound.
There is a Sanskrit proverb: "The eyes do not see what the mind does not want." The Internet turns that weakness of human nature into a force for proactive, malevolent ignorance.
People clump together in echo chambers and hear only reinforcement of their prejudices. Islamic radicals use it to recruit teenagers and turn them into walking human bombs. Angry white men hang around on wingnut websites and convince themselves that the president is a Muslim secret agent. Some plot murder. Some merely fantasize.
The Internet amplifies many things, including the worst qualities of humanity. The old media and society at large have not figured out how to cope.
When the terrorists crashed an airliner into the Pentagon, they killed Muslims and destroyed a Muslim prayer room that was inside the Pentagon itself. When the terrorists crashed two airliners into the Twin Towers, they killed Muslims and destroyed a Muslim prayer room that was right there in the World Trade Center.
These facts have been communicated by responsible journalists, but they've been drowned out by a combination of hateful screeching and spineless stenographic reporting that treats the screeching as if it were legitimate.
The 9/11 attack was not an attack on Christianity by Islam, but rather an attack on America by heretics. And yet we have this ginned-up "controversy" over a Sufi community center in Manhattan on "hallowed ground."
Nobody worries about the Ground Zero Titty Bar, or the Ground Zero Amish Market, or the Ground Zero Souvenir Hawker, but (if you believe the "news") huge numbers of Real Americans are inflamed that Muslims dare to profane the sacred soil by planning a community center.
Facts? It's several blocks away from the World Trade Center site, where a Muslim prayer room was crushed beneath the rubble of a high-rise building full of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and more than a few who never gave a damn about religion.
The entire story is fakery, an arson fire covered by journalists throwing gasoline on the flames.
Shame on you all. Shame on us all.