On the John
9/11…five years later…
Originally completed September 11, 2006
Five years later, two things are obvious.
Obvious Item Number One: it is quite clear that some people are mean, evil, destructive, and aim to kill those they do not like. Osama bin Ladin and his buddies fall into this category. I am always one who feels that understanding of one’s enemies is vital; however, it is foolish to allow understanding to become apology. Our government is certainly not exempt from criticism—far from it—but it is important to recognize fully—FULLY!—that nothing they have ever done justifies the calculated murder of 3,000 people. Did our actions and attitudes in the past help provoke the attack? Certainly. Does that justify the attack? Absolutely not. It is very important that we never forget that.
So that’s number one.
Number two is a bit trickier. Stop me when you’ve heard this one:
9/11 was planned by our government…United 93 is the film that the government wants you to see. It is not what actually happened…The World Trade Center was brought down by bombs, not planes…Bush and bin Ladin are in cahoots…
And on and on and on.
Ain’t it strange? There were the planes, on TV, smashing into the towers. There were the faces plastered on walls and buses. I was in New York City in March of 2003, and there it all was. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find an American with more than three degrees of separation from someone who died in the attacks. And yet we’ve come to a point where we don’t even believe our own eyes anymore. Or our ears. Or our government.
Life’s funny like that.
What really happened? How ‘bout this for a true story: 3,000 people died, leaving the rest of us angry, sad, cynical, and confused. Confused? Why? It all seems pretty simple to me. Seems to me that a group of fanatics—men who abuse the name of Allah just as the Klan abused the name of Christ—hijacked four planes in an effort to murder thousands of Americans. Seems to me they were pretty damn successful. Confused? Why? Because we don’t know what to believe? This should not come as a surprise…
…which brings us to Obvious Item Number Two: we do not trust our government.
This is a rather large problem. It is a problem because we as citizens have agreed upon a governing body for our society, and we have reached a point where we no longer trust that governing body. We don’t trust them to protect us, we don’t trust them to provide for us or to enable us to provide for ourselves, and now we don’t even trust them to tell us the truth. Bin Ladin or Bush, planes or bombs, American conspiracy or Al-Qaeda plot…the answer to those questions is not going to bring back the 3,000 victims of 9/11, nor is it going to bring back the 3,000 or so additional Americans killed in post-9/11 military efforts. They are important questions, but there are more important ones to be asked, namely: Why don’t we trust our government? Can our society function when our supposed leadership has repeatedly failed us? How does that failure permeate our everyday lives?
Answer Number One: we do not trust our government—particularly our highest branches—because they have betrayed our trust time and again in large, bold measures (Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Clinton’s impeachment, 2000 election, Katrina, multiple wars fought under flimsy premises). Answer Number Two: we can function, but not well, as evidenced by answer number three, which brings us to…
Answer Number Three: we see the effects of our failed leadership in nearly every facet of life. When school systems do not have enough funding for basic materials such as books, desks, paper, and pencils, that is a failure in government. When large numbers of Americans are without food or adequate housing, that is a failure in government. When large numbers of Americans are out of work, that is a failure in government. When citizens are murdering and robbing one another in tremendous numbers, that is a failure in government.
Of course, when it comes to crime, we are also seeing failures in personal accountability. There is always a choice to be made, and people must be held accountable for their actions. But many cases of criminal activity could be prevented if the basic needs of the people were being met.
Just as a strong family begins with strong parenting, so does a strong, safe, and high-functioning society begin with a governing body that operates with its citizens’ best interests in mind. Personal accountability is vital as well, but it is almost for naught if the people within the structure need to overcome the ills of the structure itself. It’s like trying to drive safely during a heavy rainstorm in a car that has two flat tires.
September 11, 2001 was an awful day in our nation’s history. Nothing we do will ever change that. What can be changed, however, is that day’s legacy. 3,000 people are dead, and that is a tragedy. Whether or not they died in vain remains to be seen.
Copyright 2006, jm silverstein
From September 25, 2001: One team, one field
From January 11, 2006: The Four-Years-Four-Months-and-One-Day anniversary of 9/11
More 9/11 coverage from readjack.com