Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mandatory 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Post

If you have read this blog, you will probably are expecting the typical lament of nationalism, and perhaps cynicism about patriotism I've written about before. This post is no exception, historic moment or not.

First, I'd like to encourage you to read this "Open Letter to New Yorkers on the 10th Anniversary of 911" from McSweeny's. The author is younger than me, and even more distanced from the event than I am/was, but sums up some of the feelings that I wrote about a couple years ago. The author was in high school in California and had never heard of Afghanistan. His high school treated the attacks like another upsetting day-in-the-life, and honestly, I understand how this could be done in a life of privileged California where the rest of the world is just that: the rest of the world. If it's not Europe or a founding country of civilization like Egypt, it's not relevant. Current events are United States-centric, and until 9/11, Afghanistan wasn't any of these things. The Taliban were relevant because of their atrocious treatment of women, but I imagine only certain segments of high schoolers cared about this. 9/11 hit home for the author when he moved to New York and realized just how hard the episode hit the city and her residents.

My response was not *as* detached, but the article made me realize that my emotional response, while strong, was not personal. The anger I have felt for the last 10 years is not personal. It is sincere, and deep, but it's anger not because I know anyone that was affected in New York, but because of what has happened, both to this country and to the world since then. My anger is not even mostly at the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, as horrible at that sounds. Osama won, certainly, and possibly in the way he intended: not just by killing people in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, but by the US government's reaction since then. The government has engaged in torture and justified circumventing the justice system, and the public has expressed minimal outrage and slowly come to accept this as necessary. The government has rescinded many civil rights and the public has expressed minimal outrage and slowly come to accept this as necessary. The government has coerced the international community to fight multiple unwinnable wars and then lost much of the country's moral standing in doing so. The public stood behind these wars in the name of terrorism, then expressed some minute outrage, and has now become so used to them that I'm not convinced much of the public even remembers how many wars and where we are fighting. The government has gone from a surplus budge to a fiscal crisis while spending vast portions of this money on these wars, and the public and public officials continue to argue about cutting spending in places like health care and social services as if this money is anything more than a drop in the bucket of government spending.

There are flags everywhere again this week. Certainly the flags are not as ubiquitous as they were in 2001, when I returned from Mexico and shocked at how my liberal California turned to a giant symbol of nationalist pride. But for me, the flag has become a symbol that I am embarrassed to be represented by. I am proud to be an American. I am horrified that America is the target of such hatred that attacks like 9/11/01 happen. And I'm even more horrified that 9/11/01 has been used to justify the deaths of even more Americans: soldiers and contractors. I'm horrified that 9/11/01 has been used to justify the deaths of Iraqis, Afghanis, and who knows who else. I'm horrified that George Bush is gone and we're still at war. I'm horrified that President Obama has not decisively ended the Patriot Act or ended indefinite detention, or ended the wars. I'm horrified that I can't look at the flag without being angry.