I try to stay off Facebook on 9/11. It gives me too many flashbacks for comfort. Not of the carnage and tragedy (though that remains solemn and painful), but of what happened after. The yellow ribbons and the McCarthyite accusations that flag pins weren’t big enough. Are you doing enough to support our troops? “Support” measured in rhetoric. Fox News started to look like QVC selling ever-larger flag animations and everyone else had to catch up. Have you seen this bookshelf that turns into a dirty-bomb shelter? It fits the whole family!

Back then I used the word Freedom™ unironically. How about the word “Patriot”? See how I wrote that? Whenever I read about patriots now, it’s in the context of how they are arming themselves against law enforcement (or cheating). It wasn’t until after 9/11 that I worried if someone would accuse me of “not loving America” enough before voicing an opinion.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t lose anyone on 9/11, I only lost them after. I lost them in Iraq, and the ones I didn’t lose lost pieces of themselves. Some of them deal with it well, some of them don’t, coming home to see seditious Muslimness in every face not sufficiently painted red-white-and-blue on the Fourth of July. Or in our president. In 2003 we were told we couldn’t speak ill of the president during wartime. How fast that evaporated in 2008 when Barack HUSSEIN Obama came into office. That’s because he doesn’t love America, right? Not like you and I do.

After 9/11 I had a heart full of love for my country and hate for our enemies. Our leaders said that Iraq was somehow involved. They said that Iraq was making a nuclear bomb. They said that Iraq was going to nuke Israel. So we took 3000 dead and stupidly turned it into 5000 more. Do we count the 100,000 dead we left in the wake of our Mid-East tantrum? Not unless #IraqiLivesMatter. Do we count an unchecked Iran? What about ISIS? Shhhhh… Did you hear that? It’s the Ghost of Benghazi Past testifying at a senate hearing full of politicians pointing the finger at everyone but themselves.

We fought them over there so we didn’t have to fight them here, remember? Kept awake at night with nightmares of Taliban breaking into the National Archives to rewrite the Constitution. There there, little one, Daddy Dubya is here. He’ll leave the TSA x-ray light on for you. Mama Obama will leave a wiretap under the bed. You are safe, my little patriots. You are free.

So why don’t I feel it? Why don’t I feel this bloom of red, white, and blue on the anniversary of 9/11? It’s because the anniversary of 9/11 doesn’t foster pride and unity. We had it, if only for a second, but now we are tainted by the fervor that took us soon after. And just like yellow-cake uranium eventually turns to lead, that fervor, too, depletes to its rawest element: shame. That’s what I feel on 9/11.