By: Callie Douthit – August 2014
Truly, September 11, 2001 is a day that no American will ever forget, as our country was emotionally shattered with news that innocent citizens lost their lives to terrorist attacks in three parts of our country. At age of 7, even though I was without an understanding of what exactly happened that day, I could understand that this event caused the streets around me to be gloomy, and the people heavyhearted. In response to these feelings, President Bush delivered a speech full of will and fortitude which he hoped to repair the strength we had all lost within, amid the tragedy.
President Bush’s speech to the American people encompasses two distinctive points: that these terrorist attacks had threatened American foundations, and that we must defend our country in order to secure those foundations. Looking back, I think it was clear that we were moving towards war in response to this tragedy when examining his rhetoric. His rhetoric clearly frames this event under the tragic frame, a frame where the perpetrators are seen as monsters and are subject to trial. By taking a closer work as his word choice, we can see the perpetrators of these acts become more evil as the speech goes on. First off, he classifies the events that occurred as not a tragedy, but a “deadly terrorist act”. From there, you can already see the tone of this speech moving towards a condemnation rather than honoring the victims. Bush goes on to refer to the events as “mass murder” and “despicable acts of terror”. But, the most vivid word choice that Bush uses is “evil, the very worst of human nature” in order to not only describe the terrorists but also the attacks that took place. The specified rhetoric that Bush uses frames 9/11 as an attack on good versus evil. Evil being the perpetrators and those who even harbored them, and good being all of America. In this sense, Bush creates a typical identity of the average American citizen that was victimized in the attacks: “secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors”.
In terms of guilt and purification, it is clear that the use of scapegoating is at play here with this concept of good versus evil. Instead of identifying any weaknesses, Bush amps up what America is: “beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world”, “shining”, “strong”. Bush admits no wrongdoing in national security that could have allowed these attacks to happen. Instead, as stated prior, we blame the events on those terrorists who are full of evil. Further, he even creates an image of these perpetrators tarnishing our foundations of freedom, security, and peace. Stemming from these tarnishes, Bush calls for justice against the terrorists.
I think what is off point about this speech, is that he frames the average American as a hero and good person surrounding the events. He fails to really recognize the true heroes surrounding the attacks that risked their lives to help save as many as they could. He only refers to these heroes once: “With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could”. Overall, I think this point is very telling about Bush’s speech and its intentions. Clearly by his rhetoric, Bush’s ultimate objective in this speech was to classify these events as terrorism and evil, in order to rally the American people to fight back. But, given my experience during 9/11, the people needed comfort and wanted to properly honor those who lost their lives this day. Bush attempted to transform these feelings of sadness into fervor and anger, in order to rally against terrorism. While this sentiment receives well with others, I do not think it was an appropriate
appeal right after such tragic events. In retrospect, it would have been best to deliver a speech that honored and remembered the innocent whose lives were tragically ended on 9/11, and encouraged unity based on this.