The Lesson Of 9/11. September 13, 2011Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
So now that we’ve all cried for the innocent lives lost here in America on September 11, 2001, cried every year for the past ten in fact, can we please, please get around to thinking about what we’ve learned from that awful day?
We’ve learned that when we Americans are attacked from without, we pull together like a black hole, kick it into high gear, and do something about it. We come to each others’ rescue, risking life and limb to save strangers, putting our own well-being on the back burner and doing whatever we can to serve the greater good.
I’m really proud of that, and hold the real heroes of 9/11, the people who put themselves in harms way by choice, not by the necessity of circumstances, in a place of perpetual honor and respect. The First Responders who that day rushed into infernos to save the lives of others, and in fact all the people who do that work on a daily basis, whether they pay the Ultimate Price for it or not. There aren’t adequate words to express my undying gratitude and respect for who you are and what you do for us all, so I’ll just say, “Thanks.”
But beyond that, the Lessons Learned become a bit muddled, with a great many Americans coming away with understandings which are fundamentally different from mine.
Many Americans believe that we’re the innocent victims of unprovoked acts of violence perpetrated by pathologically homicidal Brown People whose god tells them to hate us because we’re free.
Many Americans believe Islam is a religion of hatred.
Many Americans believe we should do whatever it takes to keep ourselves safe, including putting our vaunted American liberties on hold, abandoning the basic tenets of our justice system and tearing up the international treaties which we ratified to ensure sanity and order in the diverse world in which we live.
Many Americans believe that everything will be fine if we just go shopping.
Well, My Fellow Americans, I’m not buying any of it.
The myth of American Exceptionalism has blinded so, so many of us to the sorry history of our Nation, since before we even were a nation. The smiling duplicity of offering gifts of blankets to the people who were here before us, blankets infected with smallpox. “Take these gifts as a measure of our beneficence” and die, you filthy savages, so we can have your hilltop. Andrew Jackson’s Ethnic Cleansing of a quarter of the continent with his forced-march Trail of Tears, wherein many thousands of old people and children died because God wanted us to assume Dominion over the land. The kidnapping and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Africans, the incineration of two cities’ worth of Japanese civilians even as their Emperor tried repeatedly to surrender to our military forces, the carpet-bombing and Agent Orange-ing of two million people in Southeast Asia because we feared they would choose a system of government different from our own.
The not-so-subtle Corporate pillaging of resources and environmental devastation we’re visiting on the poorer countries of the world Every Fucking Day so we can live a life those people will never even dream of.
And we hold this truth to be self-evident: that we deserve whatever we can take from those who are weaker, and if they fight back, we’re the innocent victims.
People, it’s not our freedom they hate. Most of the world envies our freedom.
What the hate is our sense of entitlement to their resources, our indifference to their suffering and blinding need, our support of the sociopathic dictators who rob and subjugate them, as long as they allow our corporate rape of their children’s futures for our personal comfort and gain.
What they hate is our military presence in every far-flung corner of the world, assuring that we’ll always get our way at their expense.
What they hate is our self-righteous certitude that Our God is Good and their god is bullshit.
My Fellow Americans, they hate us because they think we live in a Democracy, and that We The People knowingly choose and approve of what our government and corporations do to them.
And who could blame them? I mean, we claim to live in a Democracy, don’t we? We buy the fruits of their slave labor and pay them subsistence wages, don’t we? We drill for their oil, despoil their land and water and give all of the profits to the despots who keep them barefoot and illiterate, don’t we?
If the shoe were on the other foot, I believe I’d hate us too.
The truth, my friends, is that beyond the age of 18, there are no Innocent Americans. We The People, each and every one of us, is responsible for the policies of our government, the actions of our military and the unquenchable greed of our corporate creations.
The rest of the world, sadly, sees this much more clearly than we do, and has every right to hold us accountable.
It’s not that we Americans are individually evil, at least not most of us. We love our children, care for our elderly (although I’m not particularly proud of the direction we’re going on that one,) and help our neighbors in times of need. And we come together to help the poor of other countries in some significant and righteous ways.
But our per-capita generosity is outpaced by that of many smaller and less wealthy countries, and our Foreign Aid budget is insignificant when compared to our obscene military profligacy.
None of this is lost on the Have-Nots of the world, though it seems to be entirely invisible to us.
And when we hang Japanese soldiers for water-boarding, then claim the moral authority to do it ourselves, when we denounce Islamic Fundamentalism while debating which Christian Fundamentalist to elect President, when we don’t give a damn that our pollution is fouling the air and oceans, swamping low-lying countries and drying up the water supplies of billions of the world’s poor, the rest of the world’s people notice that as well.
And they take it kind of personally.
Which brings me back to September 11, 2001. The murder of nearly three thousand Americans was a hideous act, as cruel and indiscriminate and morally wrong as any we Americans have perpetrated during the two plus centuries of our existence. But being willfully ignorant of our crushing footprint on the world’s poor doesn’t exonerate us from responsibility for it, and our indifference to the suffering which results from our greed cannot be morally justified. Without some serious introspection and a significant change of course, we should expect to suffer the consequences of our actions over and over and over again.
This is an old lesson, much older than the events of September 11, 2001, older even than the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
One might hope we would have learned it by now.