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State of American History, Civics, and Politics

8:46 AM 9/11 to 8 minutes 46 seconds, 2020: What Happened?

From 9/11 to May 25, 2020 (

The numbers 8:46 may become bookend numbers for a transitional period in American history. The first is the time when a jet plane commandeered by Islamic terrorists crashed into one of the World Trade Towers in Manhattan. The second is the amount of time a Minneapolis cop knelt on the neck and back of black man who then died. Each event set off chain reactions. The worlds of these two incidents of death are very different.

9/11 8:46

The attack on the World Trade Center lead to responses which are not possible today. In France the headline of the newspaper Le Monde was “Nous sommes tous américains — We Are All Americans.” Parisians gathered at Notre Dame to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” [how did they know the words?]. The French built 82-foot-tall scaffolding replicas of the now collapsed buildings. The sign on the buildings read: “Les Français N’oublieront Jaimais. The French Will Never Forget.”

Nineteen years later the French may still remember but it is a different United States they see today. The eyes of the world are still upon us but what do they see now.

1. They see a simple-minded immature child president who is a buffoon and laughing stock.

2. They see a country that has abandoned of its own free will its position of leadership in the world.

3. They see a country which failed to manage the coronavirus in a spectacular display of ineptitude, declare victory, and move on content to have 800-1,000 deaths a day forever.

4. They see a country divided by racism preparing to refight the Second American Civil War.

At times like this they must wonder what happened to America or have their eyes been opened to longstanding but buried truths?

At home, the situation has changed as well. After 9/11, the members of Congress, meaning of both parties, stood together on the steps of the Capitol to sing God Bless America. That could not happen today.

The coronavirus clearly shows that even when faced with a deadly attack that far exceeds the death totals from 9/11, Vietnam, and Korea combined, that We the People that cannot come together. We can’t because we aren’t really one people, we are two houses.

By now it is well-known to Trumpicans that CORVID-19 is a New York medical emergency and not an American one. Real Americans don’t wear masks because real Americans aren’t infected. CORVID-19 is a disease of New Yorkers, nursing homes, prisons, and meatpacking plants operated by both legal and illegal immigrants. Why should real Americans care?

This division between the not-a-house divided but two houses played out in the relief packages to help people, businesses, and states get through the crisis.

Donald J. Trump 10:41 AM – Apr 27, 2020

Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?

These thoughts were echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Trumpicans who see no need to assist Democratic states like New York during this national crisis that isn’t really a national crisis. Overlooked in the debate is that New York paid $26.6 billion more in taxes in 2018 than it received back, a testament to the weakness of the New York State federal delegation compared to the Confederate federal delegations. What happens if New York State tires of subsidizing the Confederate states and decides it needs the money itself?


The death via kneeling has had a profound effect on American politics and society. We are just starting to see the impact in the polls. It still is too early to know how it will play out.

One regrettable type of response has been how to exploit the death to your own advantage.

One way has been for mostly young black males to exploit the absence of police to smash windows and loot expensive stores. Obviously these instances are the favorite of Fox.

A second way has been for the alpha-male wannabe commander in chief to demonstrate that he is a real man. He has done so with his comic-book-tough talk to governors on phone calls. He has done so by pretending he was inspecting the White House bunker. He has done so by dominating Lafayette Park in one of the greatest displays of false bravado in American history. He has done so by using his generals as props. In so doing he has learned that he can’t count on them to do his bidding for photo-ops against the American people exercising their constitutional rights. He has even learned that Bill Barr of all people has his limits in his loyalty. Despite all this, he will continue to act tough and talk up his great victories before loyal Trumpicans at his professional political wrestling arena events beginning June 19 in Tulsa.

A third way has been to ramp up efforts to purify America. Monuments will be toppled. Once the forces of purification have been unleashed, it is impossible to tell where it will end. This Columbus Day during the election countdown is sure to provide multiple battlefronts as America’s Third Civil War heats up.

A different and optimistic way also is possible. The murder of George Floyd can be a catalyst for an intense, often painful, and hopefully honest discussion about the place of Middle Passage blacks and Confederates in the United States. Remember “malice towards none.” There are too many people involved to wish away the current situation or to solve it unilaterally. A national discussion where one side simply condemns the other as inferior, terrorist thugs, or people who need to repent their sins will be destructive. Much of the discussion will be at the grassroots level which is good since it will be harder for the conversation to be hijacked. But ultimately not everything can be solved at the local level. No matter what people work out involving the local police that will still leave the damage caused by interstate highways that ripped neighborhoods to shreds.  Given the failure to develop a national solution to the coronavirus, it is impossible to imagine how we can develop national solutions to the problem of race in America with the current political environment in Washington. Someone is going to have win America’s Third Civil War and I hope it is We the People.


As stated in previous blogs, my expectation was that America’s Third Civil War would heat up after the presidential election. It appears that more people now recognize the possibility of the culture war becoming a civil war.

Thomas Friedman (May 13, 2020, NYT, print): Having a pandemic is really bad. Having a pandemic and a civil war together is really, really, bad. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America 2020 [written before the murder of George Floyd]

Paul Krugman (June 2, 2020, NYT, print): And Donald Trump, far from trying to calm the nation, is pouring gasoline on the fire; he seems very close to trying to incite a civil war.

Thomas Friedman (June 3, 2020, NYT, print): I am not at all certain that we will be able to conduct a free and fair election in November or have a peaceful transition of presidential power in January. We are edging toward a cultural civil war, only this time we are not lucky: Abraham Lincoln is not the president.

The Confederacy is back in the news big time. We see it in the conflict over the military bases with Confederate names. We see it in the conflict over Confederate statues. It’s as if the America’s Second Civil War never ended. Probably that is because it hasn’t.

No matter the election results, a battle will ensue. It is already underway.

8 thoughts on “8:46 AM 9/11 to 8 minutes 46 seconds, 2020: What Happened?

  1. Yes. For the second time in my life I am ashamed to be America. The first time was Vietnam. What has happened…and why? I shake my head when I think that my great grandson will probably go to war as I did, my grandson did. They will see greatness erode and shame flourish. It’s happened again and again in times past. “Ayn KOL chadash tochat ha shemsh.I guess I thought every thing would turn out OK. Now I have serious doubts. As for the coming election…I stand on two strong legs: I am American and I am a Jew. Trump is destroying America. Biden will join those who are against Israel. I cannot support either candidate who …although I loath Trump…it’s basically … which leg do I want cut off. I told my kids to put on my stone “He voted for Harry Truman.” Since I did I often voted for the candidate that I felt was somewhat better than his opponent. When my choice lost the election I shrugged and said “Nicht geferlich” and we survived even though there were great mistakes. Even though I was thrilled when Johnson became president…As in a Greek Tragedy he kept the Vietnam wargoing. Well… any how There is the world as it is. There is the world as I would like it. There is the world as it should be. That is why the whole world wobbles… a three legged stool with each leg a different length.

  2. Mr. Feinman,

    I think you have clearly stated the problems, assigning blame where it should be assigned and offering some possible solutions.

    As historians, it is important for us to use our study and training to share with the public our assessments.

    Thank you,

    Bob Parmerter
    Town of Maryland, NY Historian
    Beechcraft Heritage Museum, Tullahoma, TN Historian
    Retired Social Studies Teacher (33 yrs) Schenevus Central School

  3. This text is hurtful and questionable in its intent. I do not see your point by making one tragedy adjacent to another when neither is given their due respect. If you are seeking to have a conversation about police brutality, its legacy, and its roots, you are addressing it in a cold un-empathetic manner that is distracting. The historical grounding for the most recent import of 8:46, being the murder of George Flyod is given no context. I find this saddening and disrespectful to the named and unnamed Black bodies that have perished under racism in this country. I am not seeking a dialogue but needed to cleanse myself from the damage done by reading it by letting the author know this messaging is a deep dive away from your stated Mission, Goals & Objectives. Perhaps you have no interest in understanding the Black experience as a human culture.

    1. I apologize for the delay in responding to you. I am having problems deciding what to say. I respect that the feelings you expressed are sincere and genuine. However, I genuinely do not understand how you came to these reactions based on my blog. The blog uses the coincidence of “8:46” to examine changes in America between 9/11 and the present. It is not supposed to be a sympathetic portrayal of the victims and be about the murder of George Floyd, the named people on 9/11 or the named and unnamed black bodies who have perished. Nor is it an attempt to understand the Black experience. It is looking at two points in time and commenting on the changes which have occurred. Obviously you read it otherwise, but since you stated you are not seeking dialog I will never know why.

  4. This opinion-based article makes a great deal of leaps and bounds to paint a narrative. Sensationalism is not history, nor is it fact.

  5. No time, nor patience, for partisan political rants to further divide the country. This is supposed to be about history, not camp,sign rhetoric.

    1. Sorry to see you go. You have been a loyal reader. Normally I don’t send political blogs to the history community but I anticipate reactions like yours. We live in historic times. I interpret your comment to mean since you disagree with what I wrote therefore it must a partisan political rant and rhetoric.

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