Some thought a good friend of mine said on Facebook Sunday. I'd just post what I said, but the following clearly outdoes my "Let us have clarity in our minds and peace in our hearts. May we forget the atrocities and move on with our lives."
So anyway, some words of, what I find to be, wisdom.
9/11: a great tragedy whose overall significance has been blown ridiculously out of proportion.
How should I start? Let me just begin by saying that I absolutely agree, on the surface, with what everyone is saying about it. I mourn the losses of thousands of lives just as much as anybody, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for everyone who displayed courage and risked or even gave their lives to help save that of others. If this were all that remembering 9/11 was about, I would have no problem with it. However, it is not, and this why I have honestly grown sick and tired about hearing about an event that happened 10 years ago on this date.
People say they remember 9/11 as a day that Americans came together as a country and became more unified in the face of a national crisis. At first, this may have been true superficially. Everyone went out and bought American flags and considered themselves more patriotic and proud to be citizens of their nation. However, if you look at what this has done to America in the long run, we have not come any closer together as a people—the attacks dragged America into two deeply divisive, controversial wars which have only pulled us apart and created more animosity toward specific groups (American Muslims, for instance) or even just people with differing views. Besides, the only thing that brought people together in the first place was fear. A few buildings were attacked, a few thousand people died, and suddenly an entire nation started freaking out that the whole population of the Middle East was part of a massive terrorist organization that intended to kill every single one of us. I exaggerate slightly here, but you get what I’m saying. People became more paranoid and distrustful of others who appeared to pose a threat to their personal security. For example: I have an uncle who is a Sikh, meaning he has a beard, wears a turban, and in general looks somewhat like your stereotypical Muslim (at least for the average American who has little knowledge about either religious tradition) except for the fact that he grew up in Ohio. He has told stories about getting stopped every 50 feet every time he goes to the airport, just because of what he looks like. Clearly, there is something wrong here. Also, the 9/11 attacks led to the passing of the Patriot Act, which infringes heavily upon the civil liberties of suspected “terrorists” in the name of national security. Wiretapping and other such violations of privacy have been occurring in the past decade with the intentions of keeping us safe, when really the primary result has been making us feel less safe.
This notion of 9/11 as a unifying force for Americans is by no means the only inaccurate perception we have about it. Imagine for a second if we had viewed the attack as an international crime rather than as an act of war. The whole world would look very different now, without a doubt. If instead of declaring a war on terror, as if such a concept is even logically plausible, we had taken the issue to an international court, things would have turned out very differently. The US would not have been plunged into two massive, largely ineffective, costly, debt-generating wars, for instance. We would have had the support of the rest of the world, including most of the world’s Islamic population who were undoubtedly embarrassed by the actions of a few extremists claiming to be acting for the sake of all of them. America would have received sympathy following such a tragic event, rather than being viewed as it was, and deserved to be, as the big stupid bully that nobody wants to mess with, with the independent cowboy-ish goddamn-it-I’ll-take-care-of-things-myself-and-to-hell-with-anybody-who-gets-in-my-way kind of attitude. We would not have spent trillions of dollars to achieve little real purpose other than making the rest of the world hate us, thus contributing to a massive downfall in our national economy, as well as the global economy which relies far too heavily on ours. Our lives in general in all likelihood would have more security now than they actually do, not less, given the fact that extremist organizations such as Al-Qaeda underwent massive increases after we declared war on terror. Of course nothing can be proven one way or another, but the chances appear slim that another 9/11 would have happened had we not responded how we did. As I said earlier, it was more like an international crime, not an act of war by a mass entity or nation, and its main purpose was to send a message. It was trying to inspire fear among Americans (there’s a reason we call it “terrorism”), and considering the amount that we’re still talking about it ten years later, it obviously succeeded.
Clearly, our reactions as a nation to 9/11 have proven to be far more costly (both in terms of human lives and economic costs, as well as national feelings of security) than 9/11 itself was. I suppose what upsets me is the amount of attention we give to commemorating it in proportion to other events which have been just as disastrous. I could mention any number of deadly occurrences that have occurred worldwide in recent years, but I will choose another that happened in the United States: Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people were also killed by this event, and many times more were left in a state of total economic ruin, yet we did not do nearly as much last month in remembrance of it. Nearly as many families lost loved ones, and there were surely just as many displays of courage and service worth our admiration. This was another example of Americans coming together, and in this case it was not out of some fear that another massive hurricane would sweep across the entire nation. So why are we not commemorating it? Well, for one thing, it’s rather difficult to blame someone for a meteorological occurrence. No politician could attempt to declare war on the weather without being laughed at by the entire nation, even if the concept of a war on terror may seem almost as implausible. 9/11 was different because it felt more like a personal attack, just like Pearl Harbor did. Of course we are no longer making a massive celebration every year on December 7, the date which would live in infamy, because Japan is no longer our enemy. We no longer feel victimized by the fascists or the communists, so now the terrorists, and all those seeming to be loosely associated with them, are having their turn to be victimized in return. The fact that September 11 has been called “Patriot Day,” when there are so many positive past events to be celebrated in our nation, sickens me. If we have to draw patriotism from a negative event that made us feel like our national dignity was slighted, rather than appreciate all the positive accomplishments our nation has made, this does not make us seem like a very patriotic people. We say that “freedom isn’t free,” and this is certainly true to some extent, but does that mean freedom is like a continuous debt for which we must regularly pay interest in the form of war, at the cost of freedom and security elsewhere? Far too many of America’s dealings in other nations in recent decades have been mislabeled as protecting our liberty, when in fact the situations there have had very little to do with us. Sometimes we have even removed power from democratically elected leaders (Iran, Central America, etc.) and installed new ones that favor certain special interests (oil companies, fruit companies, etc.). But my point here is that America has used the word “freedom” extensively in contexts where it may not really apply, as an excuse to be the big bad kid, the “global police force.” We need to realize that while a terrorist attack may have been a great tragedy that impacted thousands of lives, America has far larger problems to deal with now than an event that happened ten years ago. Our economy, for one thing, is a total disaster, and we are potentially beginning to lose our status as a world superpower because we chose to focus our resources and energies on dealing with nations toward the back of the race to globalization rather than keeping up our competition with others in the front of the pack. My hope is that after this tenth anniversary, we can find the strength as a nation to stop living in the past and move on, thus enabling ourselves to prepare for whatever lies ahead.
My intentions here are to instigate discussion, so please comment. I'd like to hear people's thoughts, even if you totally disagree with everything here.