My roommate turned to me at 8:30 tonight while we were both busy typing away at our laptops and he said, “Whoa I just realized it was September 11th today.” It struck me as odd, but the more I thought about it, I realized I shouldn’t really be that surprised?
But before I take off on this subject, and go out on many of those frail limbs I like to perch myself upon, I just want to say that this is nearly an impossible subject to broach without stepping on someone’s toes. And so, I apologize in advance. No one should ever forget the sacrafice and sheer atrocity of the events that day four years ago. The memories my fade, but it’ll never change that sick feeling anyone with half a social conscious must have felt. Because it was the first day my world stood still, and admittedly, I still get a chill anytime I see 9:11 on a digital clock.
There’s really only one question to ask. Has anything really changed since then? I would venture to say no.
So there’s a terror level. Red, orange, blue, green, whatever. They raise it sometimes, but for intelligence reasons, don’t usually tell us why. So basically the terror color has every appearance of being totally and completely arbitatry. And for all practical purposes, to your average Joe, it is.
So let’s look at this War on Terror. We did a pretty bang up job in Afghanistan. I mean, we took out the Taliban. +10 points for us. We used light and fast ground units and tactical strikes to get the job done. Lower casualties that way. +10 more points for us. But in the wake of such a quick regime change, and lacking substantial forces to maintain the peace, the opium drug lords took over and now there’s a blossoming illegal substance economy in place. -40 points.
Went to War in Iraq for arguable reasons. The claims “it was just for oil” are just as shaky as “ties to Al Qaeda” so those + and – cancel each other out. +5 points for trying to spread Democracy to the Middle East and renaming the whole proposition “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” If you’re not cynical, and still believe in the power of democracy to transform a people, as I do, you’ll see the inherent good in what we’re doing over there in spite of however the war was sold to the American people. But another -5 points for percieved deceit (whether we were actually lied to is irrelevant, because perception is reality) so Iraq’s net balance is back to 0.
Toppled Iraq in less than 30 days. +10 points. Captured Saddam. +30 points. Insurgency increasing in size, strength and impact since we got there. -20 points. Iraqi constitution being stifled by minority groups and concerns over Islamic law. – another 20 points. Come on, let’s be realistic. If we are going to have democracy in the Middle East, of course it’s going to have an Islamic face to it. You have to trust that transforming power of democracy once again to secularize their government over time, as they’re ready for it.
I lost track of my points. They were arbitary anyways–just like the terror alert (haha self-referential humor is the stupidest). The important thing is that we’re doing something. There’s a sports analogy to be made, but I’ll save myself the embarrassment and just say if we’re going to make a mistake, I’d rather it be through action than inaction. Actions leave only yourself to blame. I guess inaction still leaves only yourself to blame, but you didn’t do anything about your condition so you leave yourself no grounds for complaint. You’re the victim in that case. A hapless victim of the world’s unpredictable, unstable, uncaring forces. And that’s something America has never been. That’s the difference.
But, this is all ignoring a very fundamental point which I wished to make when I initially sat down to write. Has September 11 changed anything about our mundane, daily lives? I don’t think it has.
We’re still the same bunch of materialistic consumer whores we’ve always been. We corporatize and commodify every aspect of our lives, from our $3 cup of coffee in the morning, to the prestigious logos on our polos, to the gas guzzling SUVs we drive (and of course, the royal use of “we” is the greated admission of guilt in the English lexicon, but that’s a topic for another rant altogether).
Our attention spans are short. We get caught up in the throes of the latest season of American Idol, we hang on every episode of Survivor, we attach ourselves to the Laci Petersons and Natalee Holloways, but we forget them just as easily. The fad, fast-lived and short-remembered, is every bit a part of American culture as apple pie.
All I’m trying to say is that the fear of September 11th was just as short-lived. No body, to my knowledge at least, walks around every day wondering if a terrorist is going to strike. We’re still sheltered, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying that it’s a struggle we all need to recognize. A struggle to see the world from something outside our own perspective. I’m gonna go out on a limb and make a statement without really supporting it, but news coverage in the United States of the War in Iraq and the War on Terror in general is biased. The media perpetuates this “America is the greatest” image because I guess that keeps a steady viewership. But as far as representing that objective reality that we as journalists are supposed to be trying to attain, we sell ourselves short, and it’s Americans who suffer the most.