9/11 anniversary should remind Americans to be the country we think we are and not what we became
If we had a new job for every column someone is writing about the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the true recession would be long over.
What has been amazing in the last 10 years hasn’t been our reaction to what happened on that fateful day, but the huge disconnect between what we think we are and what we really are.
- We thought we would help our neighbors in crisis. Ask the First Responders suffering from cancer, if they’re still alive, if that’s true. If they are dead, ask their loved ones.
- We thought we would respond quickly to show them who Americans are. Even after 10 years, the replica of the twin towers is still being built.
- We thought we would make sure they wouldn’t threaten our freedoms. Now we let our government spy on us, 4th Amendment be damned.
- We thought we would make sure our leaders did what was needed to protect us. We turned a blind eye even before the attacks and let our governments get away with horrible acts, including torture.
- We thought we would spend wisely to make us more secure. Instead we wasted millions on broken or useless equipment yet neglected obvious targets such as nuclear power plants.
- We thought we would get answers to the questions we asked. The 9/11 Commission turned out to be a joke, and they didn’t even take a lot of our questions.
- We thought we would be able to tell good from bad in Muslims. Our leading export became ignorant hatred toward Muslims and Islam.
- We thought we would not be afraid, even in the threat of terrorism. Now many of us are afraid to fly, not because of a terrorist attack, but the interrogation type methods of airport security.
- We thought we would be united in the face of the attacks. We grew apart very quickly and haven’t been this far apart since the Civil War days.
- We thought we would go after those who attacked us. We took almost a decade to kill Osama bin Laden.
If hubris was a world category that mattered, America would be the #1 “bestest” nation. Unfortunately, our hubris has made us blind to the reality that even on September 11, 2001, we weren’t the best. And whatever positive character traits we thought we had, they shined through for a few weeks, but since then, we have been as weak as much as we think we are strong.
The only consolation at this point is that the terrorists didn’t damage the economy and put us into a tailspin. They did start the toppling of the dominoes; we did the rest ourselves.
Now that we have reached the 10-year mark, we are long overdue for a national conversation on what country the United States should be, post September 11. Bumper stickers told us to not forget what happened that day, but we have forgotten what we were supposed to remember.
The United States has been a very fortunate country in that we have few spots damaged by war. And those wars were primarily the Civil War and the American Revolution. We aren’t used to taking a direct hit; even Pearl Harbor was in a then-territory of Hawaii. Contrast this to England, Germany, and France, among many others.
We were entitled to freak out a little bit, and make some unfortunate mistakes. But we made way too many mistakes, still haven’t learned from them, and need to clean up this mess.
This country did take a dramatic hit on September 11, 2001, but then again, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year had more casualties and more property damage than the 9/11 attacks. Perspective is another great loss we have had in the last 10 years.
The damage done to this country since September 11 can’t literally compare, but the huge deficit and debt that the teabaggers cry about has a lot to do with decisions made as a result of 9/11. The irony that teabaggers support the same people that brought them this deficit and debt is too mind-boggling to believe.
Those of us who were alive on September 11 will never forget the attacks. In order to bounce back, we need to remember who we were on September 10 and September 13, and start being the kind of citizens that we think we are in our heads, and not what we turned out to be.