It looks like Gov. Deval Patrick is going to have a rough couple of days over an unfortunate (but not unfair) implication some critics are drawing from his 9/11 speech yesterday. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first I want to establish the context, so here’s the full text of his brief remarks (link now fixed; plus I’ve added paragraphing to make it easier to read):
We meet today to honor the lives and memories of the 206 sons and daughters of our Commonwealth who were lost six years ago in the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 and with them the thousands of others from across our nation and across the globe, who were lost in that tragedy as well.
Our tribute is for each of them and our condolences are with each of you and the families and survivors so touched by that day. Each of us felt the impact of the incidents of September 11th. But the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and friends of those endured perhaps the most profound loss of all. This is your community and your community is with you today and everyday.
We have lived the last six years in the shadow of that tragedy. We carry the vivid reminders of the pain and the anger we felt. But we must also carry the vivid reminders of the compassion and generosity that was shown that day and the days and weeks that followed. The coming together that happened not only in communities that lost a loved one remember them, and not only in New York, Virginia or Pennsylvania and Washington DC or not only in the United States but all across the world.
That is the spirit in which we re-convene today, and that is what must last. Because among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding. It was mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also about the failure of human beings to understand each other, and to learn to love each other. And it seems to me that that lesson and that warning is something that we must carry with us everyday.
Fortunately, for human beings, the human heart is not designed to carry grief forever. Somehow we manage to move on and that might be in some ways our greatest strength. We live in a rare place, where our ideas, our shared goals, and our common humanity will and must be more powerful and must ultimately win out over intransigence and anger and violence and division.
Tempered by these losses, we will emerge a strong and better place. That is how we best serve the memories of those we love. We do that not in anger at the horror of their loss, but in honor of the beauty of their lives. We miss them not because they are gone, but because they were here.
The part that’s causing Patrick problems, obviously, is this: “Because among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding. It was mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also about the failure of human beings to understand each other, and to learn to love each other.”
A Boston Herald editorial today — headlined “Hearts, flowers just aren’t enough” — begins with this sarcastic observation: “If only Osama bin Laden had been hugged more as a child.” The editorial continues:
Unfortunately, the governor’s fuzzy recollection of that terrifying day seems to be in keeping with a certain “blame us” mentality that so many of his supporters embrace, along with a failure to acknowledge the continuing threat of evil that Americans face.
A little while ago, the Massachusetts Republican Party sent out a press release that quotes party chairman Peter Torkildsen as saying, “The only failure of understanding is Governor Patrick’s failure to understand the 9/11 attacks were a cowardly, unprovoked act of war aimed at destroying our democracy and our economy. Terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent people on 9/11, and they were attempting to murder many thousands more that day.” It continues in that vein for several more paragraphs. (So far, the release doesn’t appear to be available at the party’s Web site.)
Bloggers are beginning to react as well, as you can see from this Technorati search.
As you can see from Patrick’s speech, nearly all of it is exactly what you would expect an elected official to say on such occasion. I don’t think his remarks about the human failure to understand and love one another were taken out of context; but I do think they need to be seen within their full context, which was a speech clearly aimed at honoring the victims of 9/11.
As for the part that the Herald and the Republicans are upset with, I’d call it a sloppy bit of rhetoric. I’m all for peace, love and understanding, but Patrick’s words lend themselves too easily to being interpreted as meaning that the attacks came about, at least in part, because we failed to love our enemies.
Look for the inevitable clarification later this week — if not later today.