Alexander Riley, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), published Angel Patriots: The Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth of America in 2015. Critics lauded him for his cultural analysis. They said the collective memory and national identity of the United States had an able chronicler in him.
In 2022, more than twenty years later after the crimes of 9/11, Dr. Riley, professor of sociology at Bucknell University, pleaded to misgivings. Has 9/11 been duly commemorated by the American citizenry, he says? “The truth is that the farther we get from the date, the more evident it becomes that unifying this country is likely an impossible mission. In fact, the commonly claimed temporary unity produced in the wake of the attacks was itself, alas, illusory.”
Riley’s Bucknell colleagues taught him hard and immediate lessons. “In my new job,” he observed, “I had quickly seen that some faculty, in my own department and elsewhere, were centrally motivated by ideological agendas and not anything remotely connected to the pursuit of Truth. . .. [M]any of my colleagues were typically assigning books by advocates and activists rather than scholars. I heard from students some of what went on in other classrooms, and some of it was clearly directed not at teaching the Western canon but at undermining it.
What was clearly disheartening to Riley several days after the attacks, “with thousands of corpses yet unburied,” a significant number of the faculty trotted out in knee-jerk fashion that the Muslim perpetrators were justified in their acts.
Riley has an explanation for what is happening to our frayed culture. “[T]he force that ultimately pushed both of these hallowed days of our civil religion into the twisted narratives of the America-hating Woke elite,” he discerns, “is the same: the fracturing of our culture into two irreconcilable sides, and the vast and rapid increase of the cultural reach of those who want all narratives of traditional American heroism and national identity to disappear.”
Riley closes his article with this regret. “I regrettably admit that my faith in this project is extinguished. Most of America has already forgotten, and at least half of it remembers the day as a sign of American fallenness and failure.”