reconciling 9/11 & reality

Ten years ago today, America’s vision of itself changed.  The last time anyone dared to attack us on our own soil, we bombed them with something so frightening that everyone agreed that maybe we shouldn’t do that again.  Instead, we sent our young men and women, disproportionately poor and non-white, to them, expecting capitulation. It didn’t happen. Because we are not fighting a country, but an idea. One that crosses borders and nationalities, and, quite frankly, changes constantly to fit what is truly a stunning combination of ideology, disenfranchisement, and anger at the universe.  It is not a fight anyone can win, I don’t think, without a massive loss of life.  Did we really think it would be different for us than it was for the British, or the Russians? Afghanistan and Iraq were created, without regards to tribal boundaries, by white imperialists who of course knew better than anyone who actually lived there. 9/11’s roots lie in the imperialism of the late 19th and early 20th century.

But I digress.  What bothers me about the tenth anniversary of 9/11 is not that it happened, and not that we choose to remember it, but because of two things…how we choose to remember what was a horrible event, and the reality of our country today.  Let’s start with how we choose to remember.

First, nearly every single TV station is showing some sort of 9/11 movie, documentary, news program, and/or memorial broadcast.  I’m all for remembering, and commemorating, and even celebrating the lives of those lost.  But does it all have to be so very Lifetime Movie of the Week? And what about the heroes, the men and women who did NOT die on 9/11, but who lived through it, and went on to create extraordinary things, such as scholarships and foundations to help others? Art?

And this brings me to my second point. Perhaps I’d be more with the spirit of things if I did not feel as though it’s a bit of a sham.  When first responders had to fight for nearly 10 years to get medical care, and Guantanamo Bay is still open, when we argue amongst ourselves about who should bear the burden of spending cuts, when the idea of closing tax loopholes on the very rich instead of cutting essential services to the poor has become a mantra, when our national credit rating is held hostage to ideology, when teachers and public employees have become scapegoats, and the frontrunner for the Republican nomination calls Social Security a ‘ponzi scheme’ (clearly not understanding either Social Security or a ponzi scheme) and at one time threatened succession…the list is very long.  And at the same time, we are bombarded, on this day, with the idea that we are one nation, one people, one country…

I wonder. And find myself avoiding the 9/11 anniversary the same way I avoid the Super Bowl. Not because I don’t think it’s important (and I’m certainly not trying to conflate the two, or compare them in any way), but because both are overdone. Overwrought. And out of synch with reality. If 9/11 truly brought us together, then why, ten years later, are we so very far apart?

Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 9:10 am  Comments (3)