Rob Jenkins: What have we learned in 10 years?

Excuse me while I'm serious for a moment. Well, comparatively serious, anyway. Today's anniversary seems to demand it.

And yet I do believe that humor has a place in our collective response to tragedy -- even a tragedy on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001. I believe that laughing to keep from crying is a form of courage. That a hearty chuckle is nearly always good for morale.

Some might accuse me of simply being inappropriate, having no sense of decorum. I'm not saying they're necessarily wrong.

Nevertheless, as I consider the horrific events of 10 years ago, my main question is what have we learned? It's tempting to say, "not much," but maybe that's just being cynical. Perhaps we have learned a few things, in spite of ourselves.

For example, we've learned that a relatively small number of ruthless, determined men, who will stop at nothing to advance their cause, can strike fear into the hearts of millions of Americans. But I'm sure you're as glad as I am that the NFL lockout is over.

We've learned that a widespread, subversive organization operates in this country under our very noses, intent on undermining our most cherished values and threatening our way of life. Members of this organization walk openly among us, pretending to be our friends and neighbors. But enough about Congress.

We've learned that not even the destruction of the World Trade Center and an attack on the Pentagon can bring this great nation to a standstill. Only the season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" can do that.

We've learned that there ARE things more frightening than a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists willing to destroy innocent lives for their own evil purposes, such as a group of Wall Street executives willing to destroy innocent lives for their own evil purposes.

We've learned that a box-cutter, in the wrong hands, can be as lethal as a gun. According to the TSA, so can a pair of nose-hair scissors, a can of deodorant, and bottled breast milk.

We've learned that the real heroes in this country are the men and women who place their lives at risk each day as police officers and firefighters, not the grown men who get paid to play sports. And speaking of grown men getting paid to play sports, allow me to congratulate the SEC on five straight BCS championships.

We've learned that the antiquated, Byzantine, hidebound bureaucracies of the FBI, the CIA, and the State Department failed us miserably in the months leading up to Sept. 11. Obviously, the answer was to create a brand new Byzantine, hidebound bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security.

There are probably a lot more lessons I could mention, but I won't take time right now. I need to get ready for an important occasion -- and I don't mean the season premiere of DWTS.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.