Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Unified US? Hard to Remember

I didn't think I was going to write a 9/11 post as I thought I have said pretty much everything over the years and that my feelings today are very similar to last year's second Angriest 9/11.  But then I was discussing with friends visits to NYC after that date.  Some still can't go to Ground Zero because it hurts so much.  I have been there, but the visit that struck me when thinking about it was a train ride to NYC in April of 2002.

As I have regaled many a time, I spent 2001-2002 in DC on a fellowship that put me in the Pentagon that year and on that fateful day.  The fellowship was funded by the Council on Foreign Relations, and every spring they have an event that brings recent/current crops of Fellows to meet the members and discuss what they learned.  So, I took the train from DC to NYC, and was stunned when I got off the train: all of the posters and signs sent by kids (and, I guess, adults) from all over the country.  These contained messages of love and condolences to New Yorkers who bore most (but not all) of the pain from the attacks on 9/11. 

What strikes me about that memory is that the US was not divided but actually quite unified.  We shared a single experience--watching the towers fall in NYC and seeing first responders giving up their lives either immediately (so many firefighters and cops died when the towers fell) or the long term (they willingly exposed themselves to toxins that have killed many of them).  It did bring us together but too briefly. 

Sure, the unity had a dark side--quick decisions to pass counterproductive laws like the Patriot Act and creating the Department of Fatherland Homeland Security.  But it brought people together. As much as I disliked Bush, he handled that day pretty well, including calling on Americans not to hate Muslims. 

Now?  The US is not as divided as it was during the Civil War, but, damn, it feels close.  Something like 35% of the US continues to drink Fox's and Trump's koolaid, ignoring the reality that is in front of them.  Willing to sell out the US for court seats and tax cuts, and I can't help but get angry.  The unity would surely not last--rallies around the flag do not last--but the divisiveness, particularly after Obama was elected and the GOP decided that fighting Obama on everything was more important than the national interest, has been so intense.  I know I am adding more to it by casting blame in one direction, but I can't help it.  One side is racist, xenophobic. and homophobic, elected a misogynist, and has been inciting violence while embracing Nazis.  There is no equivalance, no both sides are to blame here.  The Democrats have made mistakes, but their party hasn't fallen off the edge into the abyss of conspiracy theory and hate-mongering.  Fox has done its best to divide us, and it has worked.  We now have a President who makes no pretense of being the President of all Americans--he is just the President of his base. 

It didn't have to be this way--this was not inevitable.  As that noted philospher Albus Dumbledore said, there will come a time to choose between what is easy and what is right.  And, yes, the GOP and Fox chose the easy path.  In response, we must follow the harder path, to resist Trumpism and white supremacism.  Those who gave up their lives on 9/11 were of many races, religions, and even nationalities, and we owe it to them to live by the highest ideals of what the US can be, not the lowest appeals to our darkest past.

Of course, some might say I am politicizing 9/11.  Is seventeen years too soon?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was there and when it became clear that it was an attack I thought well it's finally happened the wars have come home, was that what we were unified in seeing/feeling?