The attacks on that day were undeniably horrifying, killing 3,497 people. They had a huge impact on the residents of New York City and environs, Washington, D. C., and Shanksville, PA. While it was mostly Americans who were killed in this attack, 327 foreign nationals from 53 countries lost their lives. 3,500 people left for work that sunny fall morning, never to return to their loved ones. That leaves a huge hole in the human heart, and I am sympathetic and empathetic and mourn for their loss. Those who were left behind to grieve aren’t the ones I’m speaking about. I am also not speaking about the thousands who responded to the collapse, who searched for the living, and eventually recovered the dead and cleared the debris. Many of those have suffered illness caused by exposure to the building materials, electronic equipment, and furniture that were pulverized and spread over the area following the WTC collapse.
I’m talking about the rest of us…
We toss around terms like Ground Zero, heroes, evil doers who “hate us for our freedoms” etc. We sell each other cheap tawdry 9/11 memorabilia, pictures, coins, decals, plates, statues, toy fire trucks and other assorted junk, all sporting the images of the WTC twin towers on fire. We fly our flags at half staff and hold memorial services.
We use words like “Never Forget” as if they are holy incantations that justify the loss of our individual rights and the horrible actions in our names that have occurred since September 11, 2001. Opportunistic politicians stake their careers on our willingness to lash out at an entire people, based on a religion shared with the hijackers.
We allowed a lawless administration to lie us into an unneeded and unjustified war in Iraq. We’ve rained bombs on innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other countries, and are seriously contemplating raining more on Syria, to “teach” them about “norms” and “red lines” that must not be crossed. All in the name of 9/11, the “war” on terror, keeping us “safe.” We’ve accepted torture and killing of brown people, indefinite detention of other brown people, remote-controlled drone bombing of wedding parties and innocent gatherings of young friends. We tolerate an “acceptable level of collateral damage.” Somehow those deaths aren’t as important, because they aren’t OUR deaths. 9/11 was OUR deaths, and they still are being avenged a dozen years later. I don’t know who we are any more.
Obama, and his predecessors, defend (and lie about) the NSA’s electronic snooping that digs around in all of our personal communications, as somehow being necessary to “keep us safe.” We’ve tolerated the indignities visited upon travelers by the TSA as the price we must pay to board an airplane, although these full body examinations and limits on the sizes of our toiletries don’t seem to have deterred many attackers. We allow our government to stop citizens like David House at the borders, search and confiscate electronic devices for examination — without warrants, while we lock up the Guantanimo prisoners, most of whom have been cleared for release, for still more years because many are brown and Muslim. All in the name of keeping us safe. Are we safer? Or are we just less free??
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
– Ben Franklin, written sometime shortly before February 17, 1775. (h/t BoxTurtle)
Photo by a US National Park Service employee. [Public domain]