Ritual Justification: The Lingering Aftermath of 9/11

I’m going to take a stance today.  It’s not a popular stance, I recognize that, but it’s my stance regardless.  So here we go.

I’m sick of 9/11.  I’m sick of the ritual.  I’m sick of the mourning.  I’m sick of people invoking it as a justification for everything that has followed.

Well…now that I’ve lost half of my followers…let’s continue shall we?

Fifteen years have passed since that horrific September morning in 2001.  I barely even remember it to be honest.  It all felt so surreal.  Just the day before, I had gone to my grandfather’s funeral.  And because of that, I wasn’t going to school that day regardless of what occurred.  I can vaguely recall the images on the television: towers of steel and metal wrapped in bright orange flames and grim dark smoke.  I can recall my mother sitting on the couch, enraptured by the television like the other millions of Americans.  It was certainly a day we would never forget.

Nor should we.  I by no means want to downplay the tragedy of the event.  People died that day, people who didn’t need to die.  But the cultural shift that followed has wormed its way through our country for the past fifteen years almost like a poison.

The aftermath of 9/11 changed the way we saw the world.  TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents began taking their place at airport security checkpoints just a couple of years or so later.  The distrust of the government that defined a lot of the 1990’s suddenly gave way to an overzealous patriotism.  After 9/11, you weren’t allowed to criticize the government too harshly or else you would be labeled as “un-American”.

Think I’m exaggerating?  X-Files, a defining show of the 1990’s, thrived in an era of rampant mistrust of government agencies and authority.  And when did the final episode of its original run air?  May 19, 2002, not even a year after the events of 9/11.  Now I can’t conclusively tie the show’s demise to the change in cultural attitude, but I feel like it could have been a factor regardless.

In any case, the aftermath of 9/11 lingers to this day.  Just recently, I read this article by John Hockenberry, a radio show host.  And I have to say I agree with what he says in it.  The 9/11 mourning ritual has had extremely detrimental effects on our society and how we view the world.  For the past fifteen years, we’ve been locked into this idea of us vs. terrorism.  We continue to see ourselves almost as policemen for the entire world.  And a lot of it is thanks to George W. Bush who, in the absence of an answer to our continual cries of “why”, stepped forward and gave us the “they hate freedom” line.

And anyone who dared dissent with that idea?  Ostracized and ridiculed.  Silenced.  Told to “leave the country” if they had problems with it.

We were angry.  And we took that anger and funneled it into the Afghanistan War.  Then we took it and funneled it into the Iraq War, even though it was never proven that they had any ties with 9/11.  It didn’t matter.  George W. Bush told us he had intelligence information that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq and we went with it, even though later we were almost certain that he completely and utterly made that up.

Almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks.  And how many have died in Iraq?  Scientific surveys estimate between 151,000 and over one million Iraqis were killed, and that’s only in the first four years of the war.  Doesn’t that strike you as absurd?  Even the most conservative estimates show that fifty times as many people were killed in Iraq than were killed on 9/11.  And yet, every year we get sad.  We get mad.  We bow our heads and mourn.  Woe is us, again and again and again…

And yet, despite everything, we are far more a victim of domestic terrorism than we are of any foreign extremism.  But you wouldn’t know that if you watched the national news.  They’ve apparently been hell-bent on stoking this fear of the Muslim “others” for the past fifteen years.  Don’t believe me?  You don’t even have to look beyond the past year to see evidence of it.

First off, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting back in November of 2015.  The news covered that for about a day or so.  Once it started coming to light that the shooter was a crazed Christian crusader who was heavily influenced by the videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts (a claim that has since been disproved), they seemed to unanimously decide to drop the story right then and there.  There was no follow-up with that angle.  The story just…vanished.  There was a blurb about the man’s court hearing a month or so later, but that was really it.

Then, San Bernardino happened just a short time later, less than a week later in fact.  Now, it could be argued that the reason the Colorado Springs story didn’t get attention was because the San Bernardino attack was worse (only about one person died in the Planned Parenthood shooting as compared to about fourteen in San Bernardino), but that still doesn’t explain why they didn’t talk about it in the days leading up to San Bernardino.  And with San Bernardino, they went overboard.  They covered that story for over two weeks, even though they had no evidence the shooters were linked to ISIS for at least a week after it happened.  Every single day it was “well we’re still looking into possible connections with ISIS, but we don’t know for sure yet”.  But we still covered it.

And then there was the worst mass shooting in the U.S. by a single shooter, the attack on the nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  Initially, since the shooter himself called in and claimed allegiance to ISIS, the news covered the story religiously.  And I even wrote a post back then talking about it.  But the thing I never could have predicted was how fast the news would stop talking about it.  The coverage lasted for a few days, but then the story was just unceremoniously dropped.  You would think that because of how deadly the shooting was that they would talk about it more than San Bernardino right?  You’d be wrong.  But why is that?  Why did they stop talking about it?

I think I know why.  They couldn’t prove the shooter had any ties to ISIS.  Even the CIA’s investigation couldn’t turn up any evidence.

If it bleeds, it leads.  Indeed.

I think John Hockenberry put it best when he says in his article that “it’s easy and convenient to fear them more than kids with guns who wander into churches to kill.”  Now that might be seen as an oversimplification, but I don’t think it is.  Think about it.  Muslims make up only about one percent of the population in this country, so your chances of actually running into a Muslim-American in your daily life are pretty slim.  It’s easier to fling your ire at them when you don’t have someone who will confront you on it.  And if anyone in the minority dares stand up and say “you’re not being fair…you’re judging us based on the actions of a minority group of extremists”, their voice is quickly drowned out by the mob, quickly silenced by the anger of the general populace.

And then those same people ask why more Muslims in America don’t stand up and denounce terrorism.  The hypocrisy is stunning.

Like I said, I mean no disrespect to the people who died or to the people who lost someone during 9/11.  But it’s become tiring and frustrating how we keep propping it up like we’re the only ones who truly understand suffering (I think this headline from The Onion speaks volumes).  President Obama during a speech this year said that fifteen years is a long time, but that it can seem like yesterday for those who lost someone in the attacks.  And I couldn’t help but think to myself “well of course it can seem like yesterday to them if you remind them about it every single year.”  I wouldn’t assume to speak for them, but I doubt that all of them enjoy the dredging up of those bad memories from that terrible day.  But we keep doing it, year after year after year…

There was a time when the world was with us, when they understood and shared our pain.  That time has passed, and I think it’s time we move on as well.

 

Thanks for reading.  I would like to take this moment to say that I’m sorry if you think I’m being disrespectful or rude to the memories of those who died.  I have no intention of doing that, but I imagine it could come across that way for some people.  This is just how I feel about these things.  If you don’t like that, then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

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