Monday, September 12, 2016

A Lower-key 9/11

Maybe it was only because I did not sleep yesterday and was, if not quite groggy, not firing on all cylinders (this is normal practice for me on Sunday, by the way. I get out of work at 9, and rather then disrupt the next few days off, I just drink a pot of coffee the rest of the morning and go on with my day like people that don't work third shift. It means I crash hard Sunday night, but it also means that the next few days, I can function on the cycle that human beings are designed to). But it seemed to me that we, as a country, are starting to lose our fetish with "remembering" 9/11. Facebook had its share of posts about it, but they were not absolutely ubiquitous like in past years. The media certainly made a big deal out of it, but it wasn't everywhere like it has been. The NFL, which has become disturbingly allied to the militaristic element in the national power structure, of course made much of the anniversary, but even that was mitigated by the controversy de jour of whether to stand for the anthem or not. And the usual mass dosage of douches all over the media was thankfully reduced to a few token appearances by the usual suspects (and one of them, the demented clown that Rudolph Guiliani has become, added to his collection of Fascist utterances when he claimed that "everything is legal" in times of war. Up to and including, I would hope, dragging the carcass of Rudy Guiliani behind a Ford Fusion or something).
What is happening on a national scale is something akin to what I noticed was a frequent pattern in working with troubled youth for a decade. When kids are growing up and parents routinely exaggerate dangers, lie about motivations repeatedly, resort to force routinely to "problem-solve," and don't observe the guidelines they outline for others regularly--by the time the kid is a teen and able to think for themselves, they have lost a great deal of respect for the parent and mostly (or totally) tune them out. And so it is with 9/11. What we have done as a nation since the attack is by far more prevalent in young people's minds than the attacks themselves--and to be blunt, few under the age of 25 are filled with love and respect with the way we have handled ourselves. I am blown away by the number of people that believe now that 9/11 was an inside job--but honesty compels me to admit that the true reason this is the case is not that the conspiracy theorists' You Tube videos are so compelling, but rather that the way 9/11 has been used as the justification for so many awful actions--the endless war on terror abroad, the steady erosion of American ideals at home, the naked and obvious using of the "security threat" as a way to loot the American economy and Americans, the blatant hypocrisy of the difference between actual practices and the platitudes routinely mouthed about "freedom," and the jackanapes that have brought into prominence in American political life waving the bloody flag of 9/11. In short, the exhortations to American patriotism so common in the years after 9/11 have become stale, even odious, to those that have seen those appeals used to justify all sorts of bullshit and to cover all greed, atrocity, and repression abroad and at home.
And a growing number of us, but especially the young, have lost all respect for everything associated with the event. And that number is only increasing, as more and more Americans reach the age of rational thought process--about age 13--with no direct memories of 9/11. As much as I deplore what the events of 9/11 were cynically used as a justification for, I still vividly remember the day and the legitimate emotions it aroused, and it tempers my disgust for what has followed. My daughter, who is 17 and who does not consciously remember 9/11, feels only contempt for the "War on Terror", the apologists for repression, for those using patriotism as a cover for injustice and bigotry. And she will start voting next year, and will be entering the adult world in a few years, and will be in the vanguard of society in another fifteen years.
And she views 9/11 not as an attack on America by foreigners that hate us. She, and a large number of people in her age group, view it as an isolated instance of an attack by religious freaks from abroad that was used by elements in the United States to wage a war on people that had nothing to do with the attack, to oppress our own people with restrictions on our liberties, as an opportunity to loot the national treasury by corporate entities that profit from endless war, as the vehicle to indulge in bigotry and fearmongering at home without reprisal, and as an example of flaming hypocrisy by those in power that claim to love freedom while actively undermining it with their actions. And as I mentioned, she is hardly alone. And as the political system throws up unappealing (Clinton) and truly loathsome (Trump) choices for "leading" the cause of Freedom--well, they aren't impressed. And they yawn at the constant imprecations to "never forget."
Yes, they remember, all right. They remember Abu Ghirab, Guantanamo, a pointless war in Iraq and the ongoing refusal of the American establishment to take care of the American casualties (and the ongoing denial of the scale of casualties in Iraq), an endless war in Afghanistan that goes on and on six years after the perpetrator of 9/11 was found and killed. They remember the attacks on any that dared question the direction we as a nation have lurched in, the vilification of those that wondered whether it was necessary to ignore the laws and traditional rights of Americans in order to fight a live war against an enemy we can't even truly define. They have noticed the places we are waging this "war"--and that we are nominally "allies" with the nations that the hijackers on 9/11 came from (Saudi Arabia) and that hid Bin Laden for years (Pakistan). They have seen a proliferation of national figures who seem to use the word "freedom" only in a context that allows them to kill people in other lands that don't look like us on the outside. They have seen a whole lot of people willing to stifle and oppress those in this country that do not agree with them, making a mockery of the Bill of Rights and the treasured "freedom" we are supposed to be defending. We have seen a lot of supposed "patriots" lose their freaking minds over such trivial matters as standing for a song before a sporting event begins.
9/11 once seemed destined to become a generational marker, a definition of national consciousness as much as Pearl Harbor Day was for a previous generation. That it has not, and is becoming increasingly less likely to be one as time passes, is due entirely to the small-mindedness, greed, and unleashing of latent bigotry and intolerance of those that wave the flag the hardest. We have seen the enemy--and it doesn't wear hijabs, it doesn't have brown skin, and it doesn't speak English with an accent. The enemy that the young see are those in suits that speak with forked tongues, that espouse ignorance and prejudice as values, and that are willing to trample on the ideals that allowed the United States of America, at one time, to have one of the most open and benign societies on earth--not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than it is now.
And you have only yourselves to blame. And you know who you are.

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