A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years After

Unsurprisingly, virtually every blogger in the U.S., and most of them elsewhere as well, have a post up about the 5-year anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/2001. Anniversaries are momentous-- a chance to reflect, to celebrate, to mourn, and to gain the perspective of time. It is not possible for people to "live every moment as if it were your last" as we are often enjoined to do-- we simply aren't wired to live at that intense of a level. Anniversaries allow us to look back and to remember the times when we did live as we wished we could all the time, and to, perhaps, reflect on how we can come closer to the ideal of living every moment to its fullest without burning ourselves out completely.

Five years.

It seems both much longer and like it was only yesterday. I remember the surreal oddness of the following several days when there were no jets tracking over our house (we live south of Milwaukee's airport, and have fairly regular plane traffic above us-- fortunately we're far enough south that the planes are not a nuisance), no contrails marking the otherwise perfect blue of a mid-September sky. The incredible pit in my stomach as the first tower actually collapsed. Commentaries on the TV about the need for 10,000 body bags. And the simple joy of my son playing with his toy trains and cars on the carpet near me while I was watching it all unfold.

He just celebrated his 6th birthday. 5/6ths of his life has happened since that day.

Weird. That's how it mostly feels. Weird. Surreal. Real and yet not.

I remember thinking, "This is only the first of many." And I remember thinking, "I wonder what we'll do in response."

Amazingly, it wasn't the first of many. No other shoe has dropped on U.S. soil, and even the attacks in Europe were, thankfully, pale imitations of 9/11.

And my question has only been partially answered. We counter-attacked where we could, and we attempted the first ever pre-emptive attack in U.S. history. We overthrew a vicious, fascistic government in Afghanistan, and we overthrew a vicious, fascistic tyrant in Baghdad. We made a strong start, and then, I dunno. We fell into a malaise or something.

It's hard to live life to its fullest-- we aren't wired for it. We need down time. Quiet time. Too much adrenaline will literally wear a person out. This war has been like that-- we need to stay focused on it, keep pushing against the bulwarks the terrorists have established, keep the edge on both the battlefield and the public relations field. But we haven't been able to keep that focus, because it's hard to maintain, and because our leaders have done a frightfully crappy job of making sure what's important is front and center.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condi, etc. should be taking every opportunity to stress that this is not a clash of religions, but a clash of world views. I don't care that virtually all of the terrorists are Muslim-- I care that virtually all of the terrorists want to kill me or convert me because I'm NOT. I care that they want to treat women like 2nd class objects at best, property at worst. I care that they blame the victims of abuse and assault and rape rather than the perpetrators of those crimes. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness-- most of that goes out the window for all but a privileged view under people like Saddam Hussein or under governments like the Taliban.

And I care that I think it quite likely that if any of them ever manage to get biological weapons, or worse, nuclear ones, they will not hesitate to use them to kill as many men, women and children as they can. Because we mean nothing to them.

But we don't hear much about that. Bush talks, seemingly endlessly and rather ineffectually, about safety and security. Rumsfeld feels those that disagree with how he has managled the post-invasion portion of the war are less patriotic than those who don't question him. The Republicans and the Democrats both use the war as a wedge issue instead of a consensus issue-- case in point, the fact that ABC is making a docudrama about the lead up to 9/11 and both the Dems and the Repubs are having a hissy fit over it. We wind up either fearful, angry or completely tuned out because those seem to be the only options available.

Five years.

I am happy that there have been no other attacks since 9/11. I am happy that people in Afghanistan and Iraq can live freer lives because of the brave young men and women of our armed forces. I am happy that in many ways we have regained much of what was lost on that dreadful day five years ago.

But I am sad that so many have died. I am sad that so much of our nation's politics are driven by fear and anger. I am sad that we are simultaneously mucking up the situation in Iraq and losing our focus on the really important bits at home.

And polls like the one in my previous post scare the bejeezus out of me, because those aren't stupid people who think that media consolidation is more dangerous than the terrorists. Nor are they bad people. But Bush and crew have muddied the waters so badly that a biased/poorly written docudrama scares them more than people who have already killed thousands, and who would undoubtedly kill millions more if they can acquire the capability.

There is a threat, my friends, a very real one. That doesn't mean we should live in fear, or blindly follow our leaders in hopes they will keep us safe from it. But it does mean that we shouldn't lose sight of it, nor lump it in as equal with whether the minimum wage will be increased, or the inheritance tax be repealed.

Five years after.

How is it that time can both fly and crawl at the same time?


They murdered 2,996 people five years ago. Were that any of those people were directly ours.

If my daughter had been killed, I would have made their attacks look like child-play.

For those 2,996 people I still want exponentional justice. 2,996 x 2,996 = 8,976,016. That seems a fair number in retribution.
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