Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 -1

So the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. And we will be awash in touching stories of loss and daring and a plethora of reminders from officialdom that "we live in a dangerous world" and how "we all must remain vigilant" and how civil liberties and privacy rights must be "balanced" against "security" but not to worry because, they'll say although not in so many words, "we're protecting you - but be afraid - but we're protecting you - but...." and so on.

So herewith my own observance of the date. This first is actually a mashup of two emails dated September 13, 2001 sent in response to two friends, one in the UK and one in Australia, who had asked if anyone I knew had been hurt. The answer to that was no, no one I knew personally. They also asked how I was doing.
I’m hanging in there. Stressed and sad like most, I expect - and fearful of what happens next, afraid of what this could mean to the future, wondering what’s going to be the next loop in the cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation, a cycle in which everyone (including us) views themselves as the wronged innocents. And, as the reports of attacks on, harassment of, and threats against Arabs and Muslims in the US begin to come in, as people equate Arab with Muslim and Muslim with fanatic (much as if they equated American with Christian and Christian with the KKK) and as cries of, in one form or another, “kill them all” start to rise, reminded of the dictum that those who deal in vengeance tend to become that which they say they oppose.

“We will never be the same” is an instant cliche. And like all clich├ęs, there is some degree of truth to it - but the question for us as a people now is what the change will be. I’ve been thinking of the last verse of “There But For Fortune” by Phil Ochs:

Show me the country
Where the bombs had to fall.
Show me the ruins
Of the buildings once so tall,
And I’ll show you a young land
With so many reasons why
There but for fortune may go you or I.

We have indeed been fortunate, as a people and as a nation, and still are. A good question now is when faced with misfortune (not in the sense of bad luck but of bad events) will we as a people act as mature adults who will think about what we do and what it will accomplish or will we act as spoiled brats flailing wildly at any convenient target within reach?

I am not confident that it will be the former. The White House is promising an “extended military campaign” without being clear against just who or where. We may be in for hard times, times which will not include asking any questions about why 9/11 happened that don’t involve “security lapses.” Even wondering about motivations of the attackers beyond “unreasoning hatred” and being “uncivilized” simply won’t be allowed and risking such a thought is liable to get you branded an apologist for terrorists.

We’re headed, I fear, for more of those cycles of retaliation and counter-retaliation, everyone insisting their enemies are subhuman devils and they themselves are the offended innocents. It could get worse.
Which, if course, it did.

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