9.11.2010

it is so time to be over 9.11

Enough about September 11.

Not for those who lost loved ones that day. Not for those who suffered serious trauma and need to mark the anniversary for emotional and spiritual reasons. That's a personal matter.

But for the US. For the world. Enough already.

On September 11, 2001, the people of the United States got a small taste of the terror and pain that so much of the world has lived with for so long, and continues to live with. The people of the United States got a small sample of what their own country has done to dozens of nation-states over decades and centuries of its history. That includes "its own people," as some are so fond of saying.

There are, and may always be, very real and unanswered questions about why the several official stories of what happened that day make absolutely no sense. (If you think "conspiracy theorists" are nuts, you should hear what the government says!) If you are interested in my thoughts and feelings about that, these posts might be a good start: part one, part two, part three, part four. See comments in those posts for more links. The search for truth should never end.

But as some kind of iconic day of remembrance, some touchstone of world history, September 11 is a teardrop in an ocean.

September 11, 2001 was one day. About 3,000 people were killed.

The United States invaded Iraq seven years ago. About 100,000 Iraqis and 4,700 occupying troops have been killed.

And that's just Iraq. How about this list?

As a New Yorker, I lived through September 11 in a way many Americans did not. Not the way people working in the World Trade Center that day did, or the people on the planes. Not the firefighters and their families. Not my co-worker whose uncle was a window-washer, working the moment the plane hit. Or the classmate of my niece who left for school that sunny morning and never saw her parents again. Despite my good fortune, the memory of the event feels deep and personal to me. I understand the gravity of the day; I witnessed the aftermath.

But what business do I have publicly commemorating the day, nine years later? And even more so, what business do I have expecting the rest of the world to do so?

On September 11, 2001 the people of the United States learned that war isn't only something that happens in faraway places. Then their government - predictably, inevitably - used that lesson as an excuse to advance a police state at home, and conquest and occupation abroad.

It is a symbol of United States arrogance and Americentrism that the US government, the media and so many Americans continue to mark the day.

50 comments:

Kim_in_TO said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been disturbed at the "let's remember" Facebook status updates from some of my friends. Remember what? Remember a time before our civil liberties were routinely violated? A time when islamophobia was not ok? (I know - those things were happening well before 9/11, but not as widely or blatantly.)

L-girl said...

I've been disturbed at the "let's remember" Facebook status updates from some of my friends.

That's exactly what I wrote it in response to.

those things were happening well before 9/11, but not as widely or blatantly.

It took a VERY sharp turn, an enormous increase.

It's been used as an excuse for all manners of evil. Yet if we examine whether or not the people who benefitted from the day were also complicit in it, we are nuts.

Amy said...

Is it not worth remembering for all the reasons you mention at the end of your post---to remember that the United States should not be so arrogant, should not see the world as centered on itself, should not assume that war happens only to other people? Shouldn't we remember that so that when we (the US) attack and invade other countries, we can now relate to the pain and horror that war inflicts?

I guess that's in part what I remember: that this gave me a taste of what it means to be vulnerable, scared, and suffering. I did not lose anyone I knew on 9/11, though I knew many people who did. But I will never forget the horror and pain that I felt nonetheless. That's the lesson I take from it. Not to be islamaphobic or arrogant, but to be empathetic to the suffering of others.

Amy said...

And I share the anger and disgust over the way the government used and continues to use 9/11 as a means of frightening people into acquiescing to the loss of their civil rights, their privacy, and control over their government in general.

L-girl said...

That's the lesson I take from it. Not to be islamaphobic or arrogant, but to be empathetic to the suffering of others.

If you use 9/11 to remember those things, then it's worthwhile to you personally. I doubt you need the memory of 9/11 to get in touch with your emphathy, to remind you not to be arrogant, not to be a bigot. But if you make that connection, then it's useful for you.

Nationally, though, invoking the memory of 9/11 is not about that.

L-girl said...

I saw a FB status: "I hate how people are just walking around like it's an ordinary day."

On March 19, does that person just walk around like it's an ordinary day?

Amy said...

I can always use a reminder to be empathetic! Like everyone else, I can be self-absorbed most of the time.

And I agree that most of the media hype and the FB status updates are not about that, but more about stirring up more fear and anger.

redsock said...

I re-read the 4-part conversation the other day -- man, that is a great series of posts. One of the amusing parts, speaking of "never forget":

" ... according to an August 2006 Washington Post poll, 30% of Americans did not know in what year the 9/11 attacks took place. And 5% of respondents could not remember the month and date of the attacks."

***

So many people were up in arms about the Burn a Quran event. I wonder how many Qurans have been burned in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 8 years?

L-girl said...

So many people were up in arms about the Burn a Quran event. I wonder how many Qurans have been burned in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 8 years?

We were right to be outraged about it. That outrage and the pro-active responses to the event - demonstrations of tolerance and peace - were important.

The Mound of Sound said...

Wasn't this the tragedy that caused George w. Bush to exhort the American people to stand up to those Islamist thugs and "go shopping"?

Maybe we should also mourn the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi kids who died between the wars due to America's insistence on embargoing even pediatric medical supplies. Noneother than Madelaine Albright acknowledged this and said Clinton did the right thing.

johngoldfine said...

Does a provocative post like this increase your troll traffic, l-girl?

The extraordinary thing is that we can't seem to get over it.

Canoes are more dangerous than terrorists, the FBI funds and enlists 'terrorists' for most of the US 'terrorist' plots, torture is fine to keep us safe, why would we object to being spied on if we have nothing to hide....

Nope, we don't seem to be able to let it go. Whether the trauma that stays with us stays because it was so genuinely traumatic or whether it is continually reinforced and pumped up by politicians and news, it does stick around.

And it seems to have some non-trivial if not quite clear connection to the USA descent into the Crazy, the Ignorant, and the Hate.

redsock said...

Where are the bumperstickers that say:

NEVER FORGET -- AND NEVER ASK QUESTIONS

?

deang said...

I feel exactly the same way. And I seem to remember Arundhati Roy saying something like, "Must we hear about 911 endlessly, as though no one but Americans has ever suffered?" Can't find the quote now, though.

At the time it happened, I was mostly angry, not at the "terrorists" or Arabs/Muslims that every one else was mad at, but at the US media. Much greater devastation had been visited upon Iraq and other countries in recent years and it would have been great to have seen the media show us the real effects on other people of our government's actions the way they were showing suffering New Yorkers to such (appropriately) tear-jerking effect. I was impressed by the power of the media to convey tragedy and invoke sympathy and selflessness. Why could that not be done for much greater tragedies elsewhere?

That night, I was teaching ESL at a local church. Many of my mostly Mexican and Central American students had stunned looks on their faces. I found out that some were worried that the violence they had fled in their home countries was now coming here. Others had been accosted in the streets that day by whites screaming "terrorist" at them because of their brown skin. But a Bolivian woman got nods of approval when she said, "Now Americans can see that they are part of the world too, that what other people go through they now have to go through too."

L-girl said...

Does a provocative post like this increase your troll traffic, l-girl?

If it gets circulated, it may. But I didn't post it to be provocative. I don't feel there's anything provocative about it.

The extraordinary thing is that we can't seem to get over it.

Really? I don't think so. Most USians live in an ahistorical bubble. If the govt and media didn't exploit 9/11 the way they do, I think USians would get over it incredibly quickly. They got over OKC pretty fast.

L-girl said...

Noneother than Madelaine Albright acknowledged this and said Clinton did the right thing.

Albright and Clinton are part of the same machine that Bush and Obama belong to.

L-girl said...

And it seems to have some non-trivial if not quite clear connection to the USA descent into the Crazy, the Ignorant, and the Hate.

Indeed. Well said.

L-girl said...

But a Bolivian woman got nods of approval when she said, "Now Americans can see that they are part of the world too, that what other people go through they now have to go through too."

At work the following week, a woman who I always thought of as completely ignorant of world events - a Seventh Day Adventist - said a similar thing to me. I was amazed, and agreed heartily.

She also said she was worried about a backlash against Muslim Americans. She said personal experience with religious intolerance made her very sensitive to the issue.

So amazing and wonderful when people turn out to be more than you thought they were.

L-girl said...

At the time it happened, I was mostly angry, not at the "terrorists" or Arabs/Muslims that every one else was mad at, but at the US media.

When I posted my impressions of the following day on a message board and people started circulating it, many people said it was so amazing and noteworthy that I wasn't filled with anger. It never occured to me to be angry. I was grieving, for sure, but hate and anger never came up for me. Except later, at the US govt and media response, and warmongering USians.

redsock said...

They got over OKC pretty fast.

They forgot about the anthrax attacks in an eyeblink -- maybe around the time the liberal media dropped the story because it was determined that the mailed anthrax was "biologically identical to bacteria secretly manufactured at a US germ warfare facility".

As more facts come out about how the Bush administration knew about the attacks -- when, where, who, and how -- and simply sat back and allowed them to occur -- and did nothing as they were happening -- nearly the entire population of the US, who were so angry and ready to take on anyone, simply yawns, or makes fun of the people reporting the facts.

L-girl said...

makes fun of the people reporting the facts

This is very sad, especially from people on our side of the political spectrum, who know full well how the US govt has plotted, murdered and lied about it for decades.

johngoldfine said...

I'd say the headline is provocative in a good way, but not objectionable. The rest is hard but fair.

When I said, 'the extraordinary thing is that we can't get over it,' I was agreeing with the point you and Allan are making: we get over nearly everything else pretty quickly. It is extraordinary we haven't gotten over this too. Must be something to do with Fox and Guilianism.

redsock said...

It is extraordinary we haven't gotten over this too. Must be something to do with Fox and Guilianism.

It was the kick-off for so much repression and terror and murder -- and profit -- by both US parties. It must be constantly invoked, so everything that flowed from it can be sustained.

They cannot have anyone not knowing the "answer" to the question of why $15 billion is being spent on two wars every 30 days.

tornwordo said...

God it's so true. Thanks for saying what I've been thinking for years. As my family peppers facebook with trite "never forget" bullshit I just want to scream! I guess I could say something, they probably already assume I'm a traitor for having left, lol.

L-girl said...

I'd say the headline is provocative in a good way, but not objectionable. The rest is hard but fair.

I will cop to going for a catchy title, hoping it would provoke people into reading and thinking.

When I said, 'the extraordinary thing is that we can't get over it,' I was agreeing with the point you and Allan are making: we get over nearly everything else pretty quickly. It is extraordinary we haven't gotten over this too. Must be something to do with Fox and Guilianism.

Gotcha. As Allan suggests, anything this useful cannot be easily let go.

Re Gilianism:

There was an excellent Family Guy episode where Lois is running for some office, possibly school board president. As she debates another candidate, she is frustrated that her thoughtful, substantive answers are meeting with yawns, while her opponent's buzzword nonsense is garnering cheers. Finally, she just starts saying "9/11!" "9/11!" - and wins the day.

tornwordo said...

Great comments, I'll go read the four parter. I do remember how hurt I felt and how my reaction ws "why would anybody do this to us, why do they hate us?"

That wasn't the question anybody else was asking but I got to work finding out why we are hated and then I didn't feel angry at all, I only marveled that it hadn't happened sooner.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Tornwordo. You could always post the link on FB. Let me speak to your family for you. :)

Yes, it is a wonder it didn't happen sooner and more often. Perhaps the US's zillion-dollar, ultra-high-tech intelligence/security systems actually do work.

DavidHeap said...

I am reminded of a poem by Chicano spoken-word artist Emmanuel Ortiz:

Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.

I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.

And if I could just add one more thing…


(he goes on to add more than a few more things, all very much to the point, in the spirit of Laura's post). Thanks for saying it Laura, it is good to hear it from someone who was in NYC at the time.

DavidHeap said...

Urugayan Raúl Zebechi writes in today's Guardia (Comment is Free) about Chile: the other 9/11 anniversary only to be immediately chided by commenters (yes, it is a mistake to look, even in the Guardian) that it isn't "proper" to remember anyone else on this day, which is now supposed to "belong" exclusively to U.S.-as-victim. Good trick that, "owning" a day just for your own purposes.

redsock said...

Naturally, the USA owns part of that September 11, too.

redsock said...

That is very much like the actual quotes from US media (Time, Newsweek, NY Times, etc.) that certain government practices are only "terrorism" or "torture" when they are done against the US. Glenn Greenwald has had some amazing (and mind-boggling) posts about this over the last few months.

L-girl said...

Naturally, the USA owns part of that September 11, too.

Indeed, they bear responsibility for it.

Amazing that people would think that it's somehow not appropriate to acknowledge Sept 11, 1973. I wonder if that is astroturfed/trolled, or if large numbers of Guardian readers really think that.

Phil said...

Expecting Americans to get over 9/11 is probably unrealistic, L-girl; hell, we have yet to get past The Alamo. (But why let go of old grievances when you can hold onto them and let them fester inside until they suck your soul dry?)

Your take on conspiracy theories is completely rational. In truth, any willful act involving two or more people is a conspiracy. Therefor, the argument should never have been about whether or not there was conspiracy involved in the events of 9/11; clearly there was. All along, the argument should have been about who owns the conspiracy.

Nice bit of thinking and writing, L-girl. Yet another bit of evidence that there's an outbreak of sanity in progress.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Phil. I'm not sure there's any more sanity about than at any previous time, but thanks for your comments all the same.

Therefor, the argument should never have been about whether or not there was conspiracy involved in the events of 9/11; clearly there was. All along, the argument should have been about who owns the conspiracy.

Yes, exactly. I wrote a whole spiel on this a while back, filed under the Sept 11 tag. In the usual way language is distorted, "conspiracy" has become a synonym for "nutty idea". People have forgotten or don't understand that conspiracies happen all the time - every time people gather to plan something in secret.

And for some reason, people believe that secrets are impossible to keep. Countless times, I have seen this bald statement on blogs and forums: "A 9/11 conspiracy is impossible because no one in Washington can keep secrets."

It's an utterly ridiculous statement, for which the commenter has no knowledge or evidence. But it's somehow "common knowledge".

Cue Daniel Ellsberg here. (A: hold off, I'll find my earlier posts.)

L-girl said...

Conspiracy theory: part one and part two.

Zhu said...

Of course, this is not a politically correct thing to say, but I agree with you. I understand the pain of the people who lost a loved one that day, but it's been 9 years and I think it's time we learn the lessons from the past. Unfortunately, most commemoration events don't bring anything new nor do they move past the shock of the attacks. I wish we would also mention the aftermath... the wars, for instance.

tim said...

Such a good post. Thanks for this, if it wasn't for this, I wouldn't have realized it was 9/11 at all! So I guess I am over it...but I am not over the fact that it was a set-up, nor am I saying that those who were *actually* affected by the events should be over it by any means.

It was a terrible day. But it is pitiful and infuriating that nine years later, it is an excuse for war, an illegal occupation and the need for red, white and blue bald eagles all over the place.

And, fuck those baseball caps that they were all wearing today.

I'm gonna let Mr. Carlin finish this one off.

Northern Girl said...

L-girl, I agree with everything you said.

I lived in the UK for years, during which time the IRA had several bombing campaigns.

A Londoner once told me that the “ism” is the act, and the “terror” is the fear after the act. The goal of terrorism is to control people through fear. If one dwells on the terror, the terrorists (rogue government, man living in a cave, whoever they are) have won.

The similarities between 9/11 and the Reichstag fire are alarming.

L-girl said...

Tim, thank you! Glad I didn't see those caps.

Northern Girl, interesting you mention the Reichstag Fire. There have been many similar events in US history - incidents that were used as a pretence for war. "Remember the Maine", the Gulf of Tonkin incident - both now understood to have been faked/provoked/caused by the US as a pretence for military escalation.

Seymour Hersh revealed Dick Cheney's plan to provoke war with Iran. PS, it involved killing US citizens.

The wonder of it is that anyone thinks "killing their own people" is some kind of line the US govt won't cross. What did they do to 58,000 troops in Vietnam? 4,700 troops (so far) in Iraq? Etc etc etc.

Once again, I recommend Stephen Kinzer's very readable book, "Overthrow".

redsock said...

Operation Northwoods (early 1960s) is often mentioned re 9/11.

Author James Bradford wrote, in Body of Secrets:
"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war."

Wiki: "Included in the nations the Joint Chiefs suggested as targets for covert attacks were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Since both were members of the British Commonwealth, the Joint Chiefs hoped that by secretly attacking them and then falsely blaming Cuba, the United States could incite the people of the United Kingdom into supporting a war against Castro."

The U.S. Department of Defense report suggested covertly paying a person in the Castro government to "initiate an attack on [the U.S. Navy base at] Guantanamo."

***

And speaking of "killing its own people", there is the small mountain of evidence of the US testing chemical weapons on its own soldiers and civilians. From this: "Congressman Mike Thompson ... said that Pentagon officials told him at the time that the testing "never happened". Then they changed their story to admit the tests, but "not to worry, they only used simulants". Now the military has admitted that real poisons were used ...".

redsock said...

Fox News uses map of 9/11 body parts to fight "ground zero mosque"

Rupert Murdoch's media empire has set what may be a new standard of shamelessness by marking the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks with the publication of a map of human remains that appears to have been developed for the New York Fire Department in 2002 but was never previously released.

"Here's the chilling proof that Ground Zero stretches well beyond the boundaries of the World Trade Center site," Murdoch's New York Post boasted. ... "It shows that remains were found just 348 feet to the south of the mosque site at 45 Park Place." ...

An even more ominous version of the same map, with lurid red dots glowing like puddles of freshly-spilled blood against a dark background, was deployed by the hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends on Friday morning.

[Fox News] did not mention that most of the structural steel from ground zero -- probably including some of those unidentified remains -- was quickly shipped to a Staten Island landfill for scrap processing, with 50,000 tons winding up going to Shanghai and another 10,000 to India. ...

A New York City blog reprinted the Post map with the addition of other local landmarks. "We made their map better," the Awl notes grimly. "Human remains: YOU'RE SHOPPING IN IT. You're BOXING IN IT. You're DRINKING IN IT and ATTENDING CUNY IN IT and you're GOLDMAN SACHSING IN IT." ...

****

redsock said...

The Awl's map is good, if not snazzy. Two great comments:

innag: "What would be *really* fascinating is to track all the body parts that have been scattered in the area since the 1800's."

Mindpowered: "Take red marker. Cover page in Red."

****

L-girl said...

"What would be *really* fascinating is to track all the body parts that have been scattered in the area since the 1800's."

When you sent me the Fox clip, that's exactly what I thought of. X-ref Luc Sante's Low Life and The Gangs of New York.

James said...

September 11, 2001 was one day. About 3,000 people were killed.

Which, for perspective, is about how many Americans are killed monthly in traffic.

David Cho said...

Awesome, Laura.

Jere said...

"And 5% of respondents could not remember the month and date of the attacks."

It a 'who's buried in Grant's tomb?' for a new generation!

L-girl said...

It a 'who's buried in Grant's tomb?' for a new generation!

At least there's a trick to that one! (Mrs Grant)

M. Yass said...

September 11, 2001 was one day. About 3,000 people were killed.

Ahh, but you must understand: They were white stock brokers. You know, "respectable" people whose deaths we must avenge at all costs.

About 100,000 Iraqis

Pffft. Collateral damage. Besides, they're brown people. They don't count.

4,700 occupying troops have been killed.

To say nothing of how many are screwed up for life with PTSD. My uncle, who fought in the original Vietnam war, is one of them. To this day, he is reduced to living in the backwoods of Montana. Or, as a good Canadian friend of mine put it, he's still fighting Charlie to this day.

M. Yass said...

After all, NYC had to be built up after WWII from being nuked, right?

Oh, wait.

For all of their tough rhetoric, when it gets right down to it, Americans are such crybabies, aren't they?

L-girl said...

Ahh, but you must understand: They were white stock brokers.

They were office workers, firefighters, restaurant workers, janitors, accountants, as well as stock brokers. They were Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans. They were Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Protestant, and I imagine quite a few of "none of the above".

I take your point, but the people killed in the WTC and on the planes were not "white stock brokers". The facts do not support that.

M. Yass said...

If I didn't know better, I'd think nuclear bombs had been dropped on NYC on 9/11. 'Course, America would never do that to anyone.

Oh, wait.