I didn’t watch any of the memorial services yesterday. I didn’t tune into the radio and listen to the 9/11 commentary, ten years later. When I was on the elliptical machine at the gym last night, I kept my headphones in my MP3 player instead of watching the solemn and respectful services. I didn’t post, or re-post, and of the ubiquitous Facebook or Twitter 9/11 memorial posts.
I did sit at home and quietly reflect on the state of America ten years later. I asked myself this question: Are we better off a decade later or not? As a result of the tragedy that took so many lives and rocked our national identity to the core, are we better off as a nation? Did we truly rise up as a people and confront the evil threatening our way of life or did we fail to do so?
I pondered long and hard. I looked at it from different angles, and tried to use different perspective. I continually came to the same conclusion:
The terrorists have won.
It was hard to admit, but as I realized the truth of that statement, I also recognized why I was reluctant to take part in the memorial services. The memorial services were talking of victory, hope, of the fact that the 3,000 American lives lost were a tragedy but also a testament to the indomitable American will and way of life. I couldn’t swallow that load of lies, and so I did not tune in.
The 3,000 lives lost were a huge tragedy and I do not feel America has done justice by those men and women. In the ten years since 9/11 I have seen a constant erosion of the American way of life. Our fear and distrust of ourselves, and the world, are at an all-time high. We’ve bankrupted our nation trying to keep the war machine well-oiled. Our civil liberties have been stripped from us. Our government is completely gridlocked and ineffectual.
No; we are not better off. We are worse off than we were before 9/11. And we have no one to blame except ourselves.
Flag waving is not patriotism
I was talking to my daughter yesterday about the ubiquitous U.S. flags hanging from houses in our neighborhood. She mentioned how patriotic most people were and we had a long discussion about how flag waving is not patriotism. This ties into my earlier blog posts here and here. She doesn’t really remember a pre-9/11 world. She doesn’t remember how, before 9/11, only old vets had flags hanging from their houses. But it did get me to thinking again.
It seems that we almost desperately engage in flag-waving since 9/11. Visible, but meaninglessly shallow, displays of patriotism are not only looked upon with approval now, they are practically expected from us. I suppose if we wave the flags hard enough we’ll convince ourselves that it’s OK to compromise the very ideals that made America great in the first place.
Breaking the Bank
U.S. military spending has almost doubled in the past ten years, with an over 80% increase since 2001. Compared to other nations, we are far and away the biggest military spender on the playground. And this spending is coming from mine and your tax dollars. The global recession, the bank and auto bailouts, and out of control war spending have put our nation in a very vulnerable and dangerous position.
The total combined cost of the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, and our operations in Pakistan have cost the U.S. taxpayers more than three trillion dollars! And for what? Are we more or less secure then we were 10 years ago? This is money spent not only by the taxpayers, but by the very blood of our young men and women – fighting wars against a philosophy – Terrorism. You cannot win a war against an “ism” and so we perpetually fund the wars with the blood of our children.
The Illusion of Security
It was Benjamin Franklin who said “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.” Like I said my blog post here, terrorism is a cancer on our society. 9/11 has left a scar on us as a nation – the smokey ruins of the Towers, now cleaned up but still a savage, ugly, scar across the face of America. We live in a constant state of anxiety, afraid of a possible future, an eventuality that may or may not happen. We fear another terrorist attack. We strictly, and sometimes irrationally, attack anything that looks even remotely like terrorism. We accept detaining or killing innocent people to cut the terror cancer from our lives – because they were close to terror but not necessarily of it.
We willingly give up our rights in order to fight this “ism.” The Patriot Act gives away much of your right to privacy. It’s legislation that violates privacy, free speech, and unlawful detention. At the airport, we give up our Fourth Amendment rights and allow ourselves to get virtual strip searched, or “gate raped” so we can have an illusion of great safety as we fly. We are being indoctrinated to believe and accept that “if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t mind being searched.”
We are giving up the very freedoms we claim to have in this “land of the free” because we have let the terrorists beat us and, well, terrorize us. We are acting irrationally.
Gridlock in Washington
The 9/11 terrorist attacks have forever altered our political climate and our political rhetoric as well. Since 9/11 we have elected more and more militant and opinionated members to Congress. The divide between Left and Right has become a chasm of almost insurmountable width. We have completely lost our ability to compromise. We have turned out government into a mass of Internet trolls.
We have a government unable to make even the most prudent and basic decisions, such as raising the debt ceiling to pay for bills already incurred. They can’t help themselves, let alone the average man. It’s no wonder we are in the middle of a jobs crisis right now. These are the people who we have voted into office since 9/11. This trolls, who put rhetoric before common sense, who put party before America, have completely derailed our political process – and it all started with the irrational, fear-based, backlash of 9/11. We can blame the rise of uncompromising and short-sighted political rhetoric squarely on our shoulders. The voters. You and me. We put these people in office.
How to Fight Terror
The terrorists have won. This is why I had such a hard time participating in 9/11 memorials yesterday. They have broken our spirit, ruined our economy, and turned America from the Land of the Brave into the Department of Homeland Security. You don’t fight terrorism by changing your core values. You fight terrorism by staying true to who you are. Every day we give up our rights, allow fear to determine policy, and pay for unjust wars with the blood of our children we prove to the world that the terrorists can win.
When fighting terrorist, you cannot become the very thing you despise. You cannot torture people. You cannot wage war across the globe. You cannot allow for “Acceptable losses” or “collateral damage.” The only way to fight terrorism is to heighten your awareness level without infringing upon the rights of your citizens and live your lives as normal. Don’t let the terrorists know they hurt you – because once they know they can bleed you they will be all over you again anda gain.
I was indeed somber and insightful on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. And I was sad. I personally didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11, but I was sad for my fellow Americans and their families. More, though, I was sad for the affect the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has had on our national psyche. We have succumbed to fear, hatred, and intolerance. We have become less than what we were. And we didn’t have to. We chose it.