Let's flash back a few years, shall we? Let's say, ten. Ten years ago, I was a bright-eyed fifteen-year-old just a few weeks into my sophomore year of high school. I'm pretty sure you see where this is going. I can obfuscate it, run around it, but eventually everything is going to be apparent. Yeah, this is that 9-11 post I was going to do. I'm going to set aside all pretense and jump in. And Yes, I am a day after the 10th anniversary, but I was debating if I even wanted to do this post. I decided to.
So needless to say, at 15 years of age, I was more than coherent to what happened that day. I was sitting in art class when the radio that was on began talking about planes crashing into the World Trade Center. We spent the rest of the day watching coverage of it in various classes. Nothing was really done. No one really explained much about it, either. I just kind of sat there, not really knowing what to feel or to think. It was half a country away. I didn't know any of those people in the towers. Terrible things to think and feel, but I was never one for very much sympathy or empathy as a kid. Just kind of watched as everyone around mourned and was scared or angry, and I just didn't get why so much.
So time changes, and I start to get it. The whole national tragedy angle of it all. Whether or not you knew anyone there or were there yourself, it affected your life somehow if you lived in a post-9-11 America. Not always in a beneficial way, obviously. And some people were effected in a good way. Some people found that empathy game easier afterward. Things of that nature. But it's the negative aftermath that I want to focus on. And this is the part where I may offend you. That's not my intent. These are some observations that I have found, some are conjectural as well. I think that all of them are important.
The rubble from the towers was still warm when the rhetoric started. If there is one thing that the media does well, it's capitalize upon a tragedy. Multiply that tragedy to a national scale, and every deadbeat "journalist" with 2 bit associate's degree in communications believes that they have something profound and important to say. The media plays an important role in the world, to be sure. But in this over-saturated market economy of ours, we are being bombarded by every Tom, Dick, and Sally's opinion of current events. And we're well past the days of Walter Cronkite, you know, journalism with passion and integrity, when a journalist wouldn't take sides, and just report the news. Now, yes, there are journalists who still practice Cronkite-era journalism: on television, Tom Brokaw, Anderson Cooper, and Brian Williams come to mind. But, here we are in the face of the age of cable news. And even a tragedy on scale with 9-11 was not spared from the pundits and the talking heads. The backlash started that evening. The only thing I'm thankful for that day is that was before my parents got cable television (I know, I know. They didn't get it until I was off to college).
This is what my issue with 9-11 is. Not what it was, a national tragedy unparalleled in the United States, but what it became within the American psyche. I can draw parallels between a lot of different things, but I'd rather be straight up. 9-11 has become this unstoppable engine within the American mindset and within American culture since. It built itself up so huge, that it is impossible for anything to tear it down. I liken it to the seven stages of grief, except that almost everyone suffering from it is on 2 through 4. I had hoped that the tenth anniversary would mark the beginning of the upturn, but it doesn't seem like it may be the case. As a culture, we're still stuck on it. We shouldn't ever forget what happened, history is doomed to repeat itself and all that, but we need to move past it.
The biggest part of the aftermath was the hatred. But it was directionless hatred. It was the minority of a minority that committed this act against the United States, but when fueled, the fires of hatred do not go out. In the year following 9-11, violent crimes against Muslim-Americans in the Unites States rose over 300 percent. IN A SINGLE YEAR. Why? Because the rhetoric. Because when a rhetoric of hate is thrown into an already burning fire, it will accelerate. Every person who listened to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (May he not rest in peace) found that hatred validated the confusion and shock they were experiencing. And it has built. It has decreased, thankfully, but that fire is still smoldering. And it cannot be put out until someone comes forward and says "yeah, it happened. And it was the highest of American tragedies. But it's done with. We will never forget it, but now is time to let that fire go out. That we will no longer allow the past to control our movement to the future. That those thousands of people who lost their lives on that day will not be forgotten, but we will build them a legacy they would be proud of." Of course, which is better for votes? Which is better to create a mobilize a rabid voter base? Ask a large amount of members of the Republican party. Ask any pundit who has used 9-11 to fuel ratings. Ask any Democrat who has run for office in the state of New York for the past decade. Those people helped build 9-11 into what it is. Those people made it impossible to criticize "America." Those are the people responsible for this culture of debased nationalism. Remember the whole "freedom fries" fucking idiocy, because another country had the gall to question America's military action? Good. Someone has to call us out on that. But what has happened in this post 9-11 America, it has become impossible to question, deny, or call out anything the America does. Not individual politicians, but America in general. It's become stifling, almost Orwellian in nature, but not from a government, from your own neighbors. A few weeks after 9-11, I, as an inconsiderate teenager, made a joke about it in gym class. Just to my friends, no one else was meant to hear it, and suddenly out comes this other dude, who barrels into me and we start fighting on the gym floor. The entire time he's calling me a traitor and whatever else, and he's got his hands on my throat and I'm punching him in the face. The gym teacher drags us apart, and He's got a broken nose and I have claw marks and deep bruises across my neck. He gets sent home for emotional distress, and gets off no problem, I have to write a three page essay about something or another which I turned into a 5 page essay about censorship and freedom of speech. Two days later, me and the guy had it out again away from authorities (I was more than content to ignore it and be done with it, but he said we had unfinished business) I dislocated his shoulder in front of a couple of dozen of my classmates. That's what this rhetoric does to people. Yes, I should have had a little more tact than I did, but I was a smart-mouthed little 15-year-old (coincidentally, that was my first fight. And I won. Huzzah). Doesn't excuse it, but still. I see myself as Alan Alda's character from M*A*S*H*. Smart mouthed, talking sarcastically, and people should really hesitate to take him seriously. But sometimes they do, and something goes down.
All that said, my thoughts to the families of those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center ten years ago.