Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On This Anniversary of the 9-11 Attacks: Some Thoughts


Here we are again, this being the 11th anniversary of the day Islamic Fanatics flew jet airliners filled with people into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. I was wrestling with illness at the time, and so had slept in that morning. Robin called me and told me to turn on the tv right away. I tuned in just in time to see the second jet fly into the second of the two twin towers. Like Americans everywhere, I felt horror at what I was seeing. As I watched another very real dread swept over me. How would we respond towards these attacks? I could see nothing good in our foreseeable future.

AS would be expected, Americans came together. Blood donations were at an all time high. We were one people during that time in a way we rarely really are. But something else happened that day, and that something threatens the very fabric of our democracy. I've come to realize in the intervening 11 years that besides the tragic loss of life, we lost much more besides. American optimism was replaced by American fear. Not so much at first. But daily the politicians turned out, warning of the terrorists in our midst, preaching fear at every turn. Legislation was enacted in the name of safety that undermined our democratic ideals. Laws like the Patriot Act. They are still with us today. Surveillance went way beyond any semblance of constitutional compliance, and when caught and called on it, they just rewrote the laws to permit it, using the war powers exemption and getting court sanction to do so.

We invaded Afghanistan. Now clearly whether one agrees with the invasion, their compliance in the efforts of Bin Ladin could reasonably be argued. But then the drums began beating for war with Iraq, who had NOTHING to do with the attacks. On went the propaganda, of weapons of mass destruction, of a non-existent Al Queda link to Sadaam. War was declared, but not against any individual country or persons, but against an idea. With a war on terrorism, we could be assured that the war would never end, because terrorism has always been with us. Every day if I turn on tv, I'm bombarded with new threats to fear around the world. If you looked in the dictionary for "over-reaction" I think there should be a picture of the U.S. post 9-11.

History teaches me that Caesar wanted to invade Gaul but the senate was reluctant to give him permission. At that point they were still a Republic. But he used the name of a much feared barbarian and told the people that if he did not go after him, then Rome could well be sacked. In the name of fear they allowed him to do that, and upon his return, began unraveling the republic in favor of the empire. Confidence and optimism was replaced by fear, and the decline could begin.

So it is that today I mourn for a number of things. I lament the loss of each precious life that was taken that day. I really am glad they got Bin Ladin and the folks associated with that heinous crime. I mourn the thousands of lives lost on both sides in Afghanistan, Iraq, and various other covert activities around the world in this nebulous "war on terror." I mourn the loss of freedom. The vary idea that so many cities now have drones spying on their citizens is an outrage to me, and I would assume anyone who loves the promise of the American dream. Bin Ladin said he wanted to drain the American resources and undermine our democratic ideals, using fear as the tactic through his terrorist attacks. We have indeed drained our resources critically, and freedom has been the casualty of our response. It does not have to be this way. But first we must set aside the fear. Mourning our dead is appropriate. Continuing these bloody conflicts and eroding our democracy is not appropriate. Using the harsher language of my youth, I think we need to grow a backbone and kick some politician butt to change the paradigm. I know we can never get back the lives who were lost. But given the will, we can sure take back our government. They need to be serving us, not spying on us.

"O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!"

- excerpt poem by Langston Hughes

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