Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years after Nine-Eleven

I was just starting my senior year of high school, and was a month and a day from the age of seventeen. It was third period, which at this particular point meant I had a free period that deserved to be spent in blissful sleep in the cafeteria. I can still remember my chagrin – three years after the fact – at the new and less-comfortable style of seating in the FHS food spot. I woke up, and was on my way to my fourth period class as if it were any other day in the history of the United States – or, at least, my high school career. That's when my friend Mike found me, and he looked worried. “They fucking hit us,” he said. I rubbed my eyes, found out I wasn't dreaming (or having a nightmare), and when I was given clarification on exactly what “hit” meant, my blood ran cold.

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, USCGC Eagle)

September 11, 2001. I could talk in great depth about my feelings that day – in my young mind, it was just the opening gambit by a “greater power” such as Russia or China, one that had planned it as a distraction for our armed forces so that they could launch a follow-up strike while our guard was down. To a young me, the truth really was just too simple, and there were just too few facts available at that point. It was just so much easier to imagine a cast of nefarious characters similar to James Bond's SMERSH (SPECTRE in the movies) – invisible, omnipotent, and dedicated to our destruction. For a budding fiction writer, I guess it made sense.

But like I said, I'm not here to talk about my feelings on that day. As powerful as they were, so many others suffered so much more that mine are virtually irrelevant. Just the same, its hard to be critical of anyone's opinion on the aftermath of the atrocity that took place – with so much loss and lifelong trauma, I get a nasty feeling in my gut when I tell myself that, in spite of the horror, the best thing we can do - what we have to do - is to approach its lingering effects on our country from an impartial angle; one as distant from emotion as possible, one whose responsibility isn't to people's feelings as much as the code of conduct that we as American citizens have agreed to abide by.

Over the last few months there has been an incredibly un-American backlash against Muslim citizens in the United States. While ludicrous “book-burnings” may be off the table, the biggest issue I'm finding myself at odds with folks I otherwise agree with is, of course, the “Ground-Zero Mosque.” It is, naturally, not at Ground-Zero at all, but instead a few blocks away. It also is not operated by a terrorist organization; Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was selected by the Bush Administration to serve as a special envoy to Islamic countries as early as 2007 - far from a radical. It isn't even just a mosque – Park 51 is an entire community center which happens to be organized primarily by Muslim-Americans, but which will feature a 9/11 memorial as well as interfaith resources. In short, the entire concept of a "Ground Zero Mosque" no longer has few, if any holds on reality.

I say “no longer” because according to a recent New York Times article, the actual “Ground-Zero Mosque” was a prayer center that was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks; and this underscores the true sadness of this entire issue. The terrorists who murdered three thousand American citizens nine years ago didn't care if they were Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Wiccan, or even fellow Muslims – they only believed themselves to be killing “the enemy,” regardless of the enemy's creed, ethnicity, gender, orientation or age. They had a perverse religious and political philosophy that justified spending their own lives to end those of others – and the logic there is sick, twisted, and another example of the depths that humanity is capable of.

The depraved actions of these murderers were, of course, off-set by an example of the very best of humanity on behalf of the heroes of 9/11; the ones so often held up as both pillars of our society and, sadly, political footballs. It is, after all, their memories that are being invoked the most powerfully by those who have lost – and in cases like these its just not fair to say its all a matter of politics. Most people are so hurt that when someone claims that an action would harm the memory of their loved ones, they instinctively agree. Its so hard to find fault with them, because even when they are wrong they are wrong for the right reasons, and there's nobility in that.

But there are always those pied pipers, the ones who couldn't give a damn less about those who lost that day – the ones that see them as Machiavellian pawns in the struggle between political left and right. The ones that either latch onto a racist agenda or onto the fact that there is a lovely vehicle for ambition called the “Tea Party” - a movement that has, as a small but powerful portion of its membership, a number of true lunatics that would see the country reduced to a theocratic dictatorship.

So I'm going to come out and say it – so many of you, you who have never stopped suffering since the heinous attack on our country, are being deceived. You are being told to sacrifice your freedoms in order to gain some sense of security; and, as demonstrated by Jason James Lee's terrorist takeover of the Discovery Channel's headquarters, such things are impossible. Yes, this man was yet another “home-grown” terrorist. The sort of man that our present administration, under President Obama, has decided is worth fighting for the abominable cause of "extreme rendition" over.

Those who initially founded this country with cries like “Give me liberty or give me death” knew the price of freedom, and that price is that people will die in its name. Tomorrow a terrorist could strike again, or a year from now, and people will shout that there should have been stricter security – freedom be damned, Thomas Jefferson's advice on the trade between freedom and safety be damned.

The political leaders that promise these things are, at best, victims of this same emotional trauma themselves. At worst, they aren't even interested in their own power – they are driven by a religious or political philosophy that is far more destructive to America as the ones that caused the tragedy in the first place. Sharron Angle, for example, once hinted that if "Congress keeps going the way it it," people might resort to “Second-Amendment solutions” - and followed it up by suggesting that someone "take out" her opponent in a coming election, Harry Reid. Once, I saw on a Facebook group on about own Village of Freeport that a man called for “One good Marine with one good bullet” to “take care of” our Mayor – this abysmal post was deleted from the page in question, thankfully.

This isn't a joke, and this isn't a jest – this is the state of radicalization that our country has entered into, that political assassinations of duly elected officials are rational solutions, and it should never be considered a part of “normal” American discourse. Its nothing short of a political elite feeding on the pain and sorrow that their fellow citizen is suffering, and using it to transform the country into their ideal – whatever it might be. To leave it at a fine point, when called out on his hypocrisy on family values by the ex-wife he cheated on, Newt Gingrich remarked that it didn't really matter what he lived - he just needed to say what he said.

Whaddya say we tell people like him that their time is at an end? See if they listen to us, for a change, when we say that the memories of our heroes are only sullied by those who use them for political ends?

Goddess watch those that fell that day.