Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Radical Daughter

 

556756_10150877885149072_745932628_nOn September 11, 2001 I was sitting on the floor of my sister’s living room, babysitting her one-year-old daughter. We were lazily playing with the afternoon news in the background. The first thing I noticed was how the anchor’s voice changes. The normally-chipper woman was saying “Wait, wait,” while staring to the side of the camera. There had been a horrible accident, she said, as I watched the smoke pour out of the first tower. When the second plane hit, I hoped beyond hope she was right.

I had just gotten back from a year in France. A few months earlier, I’d been standing in a crowded bar on Place de Clichy, celebrating my 20th birthday. I remember that night, although several bottles of bad white wine say I shouldn’t. I was surrounded by my peers: other upper middle-class liberals who had fled to Paris in order to fulfill the fantasy of their existence. We had come to this historical city to live the life of songs and books and Technicolor movies. We were radicals. We were heroes. We were going to change the world.

The people with me in that bar were a random sample of the political atmosphere of Europe at the time. Members of the autonomic environmentalist movement, militant feminist, pro-Palestinians, and your run-of the-mill anti-government thugs. Having a friend who had been jailed for rioting was as necessary as a Malcolm X t-shirt and a backpocket paperback of Catcher in the Rye. I gladly picked up that uniform, just as I picked up rocks and banners knowing that this was the ticket to ride.

Raised in a family of academics, this was a natural evolution on my part and a result of a serious political interest. I identified as an intellectual and as a political thinker with a critical mind. What I failed to acknowledge at the time was that my country was literally a controlled environment and that the spectrum in which that political analysis took place was limited. Not unlike The Truman Show, where the choices you think you are making were already made for you long ago, and any dreams of a different fate are swiftly corrected.

I left my one bedroom apartment in the chic slum of the 19th arrondisement in June of 2001. I was headed back to Gothenburg, Sweden and the mass protest against the EU-summit and George W. Bush. I planned to be back in time to see the first leaves fall on Champs Elysees. Turns out, that didn’t happen.

Night fell and morning broke before I managed to get off that floor to answer my phone, on the other end I heard my boyfriend’s voice, chanting franticly:

Two more towers! Two more towers! Two more towers!

He and his friends were having a party, celebrating the attack on America. He called to invite me, and to this day I have never felt such intense shame.

During his speech on September 14th 2001, President Bush said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. Well, on that day I was introduced to who I had been and who I truly was. I saw my own place in the context of history, and how the ideas that I helped promote, the accusations I had met with silence, all had a part in shaping the world I now saw burning before me.

It wasn’t a game. I had played it, but it was never a game.

In the weeks that followed, I watched the American news with one eye, and its European counterpart with the other. It was like seeing the slow shifting of the tectonic plates, dividing the world through op-eds and analysis. On September 12th, 2001 the headline of the largest Swedish newspaper read: “We Are All Americans.” A few weeks later, that beautiful creed had already been forgotten. The one time my country could side with the US was when it was on its knees, but when it refused to stay down it quickly went back to the smug relativism of WW2, the icy efficiency of a country never having to fight for either ethics or existence.

Soon enough, the narrative was clear, the end of the story had already been written. The US was unjustly acting as the world police, once again. Bush was a moron and a puppet. America was killing innocent people for oil. It went on and on and all I could think was that if I know that these things are not true, then what other lies have I accepted as truth throughout my life?

So I pulled at the thread of my ideology, and it all unraveled before me.

On September 20th, I watched Bush’s address Congress. I had heard him speak before, but on this night, I listened – and one sentence jumped out and grabbed me:

Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that G-d is not neutral between them.

So I asked myself if I was free. Not free in movement or by law, but free in thought and intellect. I was not, nor had I ever been. The politics I had held and protected so violently were a version of the norm, and for all my intellect and breeding I had done nothing more than tout the company line.

I left everything that year; it was like walking away from the scene of a crime. I remember thinking that it would have been easier leaving a cult, at least then there would be a welcoming sane majority on the other side. Or if there was a physical wall to climb and a dictator to topple, instead of the silent oppression of the consensus.

My country did not change that day, but I had to. The tectonic plates where shifting, and I decided to jump.

When I stood in that bar toasting myself, I thought I was a radical. Today, as a Neocon in Sweden, I know I was wrong.

I was raised in a country where that neutrality — that indifference before right and wrong — is a badge of honor. I was taught that morality is weakness, faith is ignorance, and the concept of good and evil is a reason for ridicule.

On September 11th 2001 I saw the difference between fear and freedom for the very first time, and I vowed not to be neutral between them, ever again.

There are 49 comments.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. Very moving.

    • #1
    • June 2, 2015, at 5:26 AM PDT
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  2. Gatomal Member

    Annika. Beautifully written. Exactly right. You are a radical, like me.

    • #2
    • June 2, 2015, at 5:28 AM PDT
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  3. Guruforhire Member

    Wow, given we are about the same age and living in Europe at the time our experiences could not have been more different.

    But then I was a service member in Germany in a rapid deployment unit.

    • #3
    • June 2, 2015, at 5:29 AM PDT
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  4. Profile Photo Member

    One of the best things I’ve ever read on Ricochet. Thank you.

    • #4
    • June 2, 2015, at 5:48 AM PDT
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    Two more towers! Two more towers! Two more towers!

    He and his friends were having a party, celebrating the attack on America. He called to invite me, and to this day I have never felt such intense shame.”

    Whether a lot of us here in the States want to admit this or not, the US still has not come to terms with the feeling in the rest of the world (even among allies) that the 9/11 attacks were some form of comeuppance (I vehemently disagree with this notion, but I still acknowledge its existence.).

    It is long past time to acknowledge “America Alone,” (per Mark Steyn) and act accordingly when it comes to US interests.

    • #5
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:11 AM PDT
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  6. Dave of Barsham Member

    That’s some powerful stuff Annika, thank you for writing it.

    • #6
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:18 AM PDT
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  7. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ricochet sometimes posts on my Facebook page. (I’ve tried to put Ricochet posts there, but I still don’t know how to do it.) Anyway, could this post please be posted for me ?

    • #7
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:30 AM PDT
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  8. TG Thatcher
    TG

    Thank you, Annika.

    • #8
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:46 AM PDT
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  9. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Superb, as always. Thank you!

    • #9
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:46 AM PDT
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  10. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you for sharing this. It cannot have been easy.

    • #10
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:51 AM PDT
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  11. Lucy Pevensie Inactive

    Ansonia:Ricochet sometimes posts on my Facebook page. (I’ve tried to put Ricochet posts there, but I still don’t know how to do it.) Anyway, could this post please be posted for me ?

    Ansonia, go to the top of the page. Copy the URL for this post. Go to Facebook. Paste the URL into the box where it says, “What’s on your mind?” That should work.

    • #11
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:52 AM PDT
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  12. Look Away Inactive

    Thank you for sharing, beautifully written.

    • #12
    • June 2, 2015, at 6:52 AM PDT
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  13. Matthew Hennessey Contributor

    satchelpaige:One of the best things I’ve ever read on Ricochet. Thank you.

    I’ll go ahead and say this is THE best thing I’ve ever read on Ricochet. Just beautiful. I relate to so much of what you write. I walked the same path.

    Just yesterday I spoke on the phone with someone who worked near the WTC and lost a cousin, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, in the attack. On September 10th, this fellow told me, he’d deliberately avoided riding the train home with his cousin because he knew the routine included a couple of beers, and he wanted to go for a run after work. The next morning: apocalypse. He never saw his cousin again. You can imagine the pain that goes along with that. We both agreed that “never forget” was a lie, except to those of us for whom it wasn’t.

    • #13
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  14. Sheila S. Member
    Sheila S. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Beautifully articulated. Thank you for sharing.

    • #14
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:23 AM PDT
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  15. Dustoff Inactive

    Awakening from “the big lie” of self importance is a shocking and sobering thing. More powerful is the humility, wisdom and grace that comes from seeing truth. Thanks for sharing some of that with us Annika.

    • #15
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:32 AM PDT
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  16. Front Seat Cat Member

    Your important story is one we all see ourselves in to a greater or lesser degree – youth embraces the new, good and bad. I followed what seemed like good ideas of my generation, but turned out to be terrible ideas. The quote by Bush about

    “adversity shows us ourselves” (by God’s grace), has been shown to me in every facet of my life, and still does. The test is bad ideas don’t hold up to adversity.

    You remind me of the writer and Journalist Liza Marklund from Sweden. I read her story in FLOW Magazine. The heroine in her novels is named Annika, as is her daughter. Liza’s best friend was Anna Lindh, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was killed, shopping in a store, by radicals. Anna’s also mentioned in Claire Berlinski’s book, “Menace in Europe”. Please read it.

    I keep bringing up this book because I just finished it, and am still shocked by it. I had no idea Europeans thought of America so negatively. It also paints a current picture of what you describe across Europe, including the other end of extremism. The kind that laid the groundwork for Hitler and Stalin.

    Your experience humbled you, and you have a gift of writing. Your story needs to be told – militants and mob rule are rising, towards anyone with a different view, Jews, Christians, even bakers who choose not to bake for a gay wedding. Some don’t learn from history. You did.

    • #16
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:40 AM PDT
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  17. PsychLynne Inactive

    Annika, that is a beautiful telling of a hard story. I am particularly struck by your statement that there was Nono e to meet you as you leapt across the shifting plates.
    Thanks you for sharing your journey with us.

    • #17
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  18. Front Seat Cat Member

    Matthew Hennessey:

    satchelpaige:One of the best things I’ve ever read on Ricochet. Thank you.

    I’ll go ahead and say this is THE best thing I’ve ever read on Ricochet. Just beautiful. I relate to so much of what you write. I walked the same path.

    Just yesterday I spoke on the phone with someone who worked near the WTC and lost a cousin, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee, in the attack. On September 10th, this fellow told me, he’d deliberately avoided riding the train home with his cousin because he knew the routine included a couple of beers, and he wanted to go for a run after work. The next morning: apocalypse. He never saw his cousin again. You can imagine the pain that goes along with that. We both agreed that “never forget” was a lie, except to those of us for whom it wasn’t.

    Matthew, I lived in Boston at the time – the two planes flew out of Logan. Pictures of the local victims grew longer on evening news. Some of the terrorists stayed in hotel rooms a couple towns over from where we lived to do dry runs. Those killed included a client of my husband’s, relatives of neighbors and friends. The local fire dept. held boots out for donations daily – I weeped for years on that date, still do, every detail burned into memory. Bush carried the badge of a killed NY transit worker daily during his entire presidency.

    • #18
    • June 2, 2015, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  19. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Wonderful article. Evan Sayet had much the same experience, and gave a great talk about it a number of years ago at Heritage. Here is the link.

    Annika, I wonder if you could comment upon your pre-9/11 motivations for adopting Left-wing radicalism.

    I had several Leftist friends during my college days in the mid-1980s — very smart young people who, somehow, failed to see the difference between the US and the Soviet Union. I remember the frustration of trying to explain what seemed to me so simple. One side had to build walls to keep people out, while the other side had to build walls — painted white and with a wide, cleared field-of-fire in front of them — to keep people in. Why couldn’t they understand?

    I have the same frustration with Leftists today, tempered by the fact that I tend to avoid debating or listening to them. Sometimes the Leftist world-view seems almost a species of insanity.

    Is it as simple as “teenage” rebellion and immaturity? I don’t mean that it is directly related to age — one can have this attitude at any age — but the Left often seems to me like a rich, spoiled, sheltered 19-year-old resenting the Daddy who protects it and gives it everything.

    • #19
    • June 2, 2015, at 8:31 AM PDT
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  20. MikeHs Inactive

    Thank you for that great piece. I wanted to say “wow” as well, but so many others beat me to it.

    I admit it’s very hard for me now (or back in 2oo1) to understand the mindset of the people you describe. I am older and I know that age and perspective plays a part. But, still…

    • #20
    • June 2, 2015, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  21. Doug Watt Moderator

    There is a lot of discussion on the origin of this quote. I have decided to present the Swedish version.

    In 1923 the “Wall Street Journal” credited King Oscar II of Sweden with a version of the remark using the word “socialist” instead of “républicain” or “republican”.

    A man who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart. If he remains one after 25 he has no head.—King Oscar II of Sweden

    Annika your early journey brought you to the right path. Unfortunately some never find what you found.

    • #21
    • June 2, 2015, at 8:47 AM PDT
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  22. Johnny Dubya Inactive

    “Two more towers…” I think those words literally made my blood run cold.

    I was right outside the towers at the time of the attack. For a time, I thought my wife, who also worked in the vicinity, had been caught in the towers’ collapse. She saw people jumping to their deaths – a sight that I was mercifully spared. Office papers from the towers fell into the little backyard of the house we owned at the time in Brooklyn, having floated across the East River on a plume of smoke functionally identical to those that issued from the concentration camp crematory stacks of World War II.

    Our current community is only 20 miles from Ground Zero. From my wife’s new office in the attic of our home, you can see One World Trade Center on the horizon, just as before 9/11/01 you could see the Twin Towers. We know two 9/11 widows, and a plaque in a town park bears their husbands’ names and a few others’.

    These were good people, loving spouses, dedicated parents, caring sports coaches, church volunteers.

    The idea that anyone would applaud their death is repugnant in the extreme.

    • #22
    • June 2, 2015, at 9:18 AM PDT
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  23. Doug Watt Moderator

    Johnny Dubya:“Two more towers…”I think those words literally made my blood run cold.

    I was right outside the towers at the time of the attack. For a time, I thought my wife, who also worked in the vicinity, had been caught in the towers’ collapse. She saw people jumping to their deaths – a sight that I was mercifully spared. Office papers from the towers fell into the little backyard of the house we owned at the time in Brooklyn, having floated across the East River on a plume of smoke functionally identical to those that issued from the concentration camp crematory stacks of World War II.

    Our current community is only 20 miles from Ground Zero. From my wife’s new office in the attic of our home, you can see One World Trade Center on the horizon, just as before 9/11/01 you could see the Twin Towers. We know two 9/11 widows, and a plaque in a town park bears their husbands’ names and a few others’.

    These were good people, loving spouses, dedicated parents, caring sports coaches, church volunteers.

    The idea that anyone would applaud their death is repugnant in the extreme.

    It’s difficult to keep the tears at bay when reading this comment. May they all rest in peace, may those that they loved, and left behind find peace.

    • #23
    • June 2, 2015, at 9:25 AM PDT
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  24. Profile Photo Member

    Johnny Dubya:“Two more towers…”I think those words literally made my blood run cold.

    I was right outside the towers at the time of the attack. For a time, I thought my wife, who also worked in the vicinity, had been caught in the towers’ collapse. She saw people jumping to their deaths – a sight that I was mercifully spared. Office papers from the towers fell into the little backyard of the house we owned at the time in Brooklyn, having floated across the East River on a plume of smoke functionally identical to those that issued from the concentration camp crematory stacks of World War II.

    Our current community is only 20 miles from Ground Zero. From my wife’s new office in the attic of our home, you can see One World Trade Center on the horizon, just as before 9/11/01 you could see the Twin Towers. We know two 9/11 widows, and a plaque in a town park bears their husbands’ names and a few others’.

    These were good people, loving spouses, dedicated parents, caring sports coaches, church volunteers.

    The idea that anyone would applaud their death is repugnant in the extreme.

    And yet large chunks of the rest of the world (including putative allies) think their deaths, if they think about them at all, are but mere collateral damage.

    • #24
    • June 2, 2015, at 9:31 AM PDT
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  25. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Re: comment 11

    Thank you, Lucy. My husband followed your directions. Now he’ll show me. It’s posted.

    • #25
    • June 2, 2015, at 9:32 AM PDT
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  26. myfavoritchords Member

    Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing. You made me think of this quote from Whittaker Chambers:

    I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.

    Welcome to the team. I hope it’s not the losing side.

    • #26
    • June 2, 2015, at 10:26 AM PDT
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  27. Brian Wyneken Member

    Annika: I would not typically comment just for the purpose of saying “wow” – but this piece is remarkably insightful. Congratulations, Thank You, and Best Wishes.

    • #27
    • June 2, 2015, at 10:36 AM PDT
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  28. aardo vozz Member

    Thank you for another great post. Are you still going forward with your plans to leave Sweden?

    • #28
    • June 2, 2015, at 10:49 AM PDT
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  29. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    Thank you for posting. Very powerful. Those of us in NYC that day all have our own very personal memories, the lost friends, the silent walk home from our offices in the middle of the day, and many much more horrible situations. I always find the memories of people outside the city interesting, and the idea someone chanting “two more towers” makes me queasy.

    A side note about the non political but very real changes that went into motion that day- the company I now work for is doing great things for our clients. 3 of our 4 founders were supposed to be on the 82 floor that day… but for a dentist appointment, a parent teacher conference, and a hangover, none of them would be here today. Our company would not be here to today, and the work we do for our clients would not be here today. The opportunities lost and futures snuffed out that day are incalculable. People like your ex boy friend will never appreciate that, and is what makes this struggle so important. Thanks for posting.

    • #29
    • June 2, 2015, at 11:27 AM PDT
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  30. AUMom Member
    AUMom Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I will add my thanks and sense of wonder at the beauty of your words.

    • #30
    • June 2, 2015, at 11:54 AM PDT
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