Twenty-one years is a long time. There’s a whole generation of, for all intents and purposes, adults that weren’t even alive when 9/11 happened. The enduring changes that occurred afterwards are really the only thing left from that day. We, humanity in general, have a short memory for things like that. It’s history and we don’t learn from history, much less the present. It’s on odd day and even when it happened we acted in odd ways.
Maybe not odd ways persay. It’s funny though, not the “haha” funny, but funny in how we reacted. Airport security for example has, as of now, continued to be on high alert. Government surveillance programs that spun out of the terrorist attacks are still going in full swing. Ironically those have come into the light and the public didn’t even care. What I’m trying to say is that a lot of things changed after 9/11 and in a lot of ways things stayed the same.
People liked to talk about the amount of death that occurred that day as justification for the changes that happened, the subtle and not so subtle erosions of our privacies and freedoms. After all, who needs privacy when you’re not doing anything wrong? Who cares if the government takes a peek at what you’re doing? It’s not like you’re doing something bad, right?
A lot has changed though. COVID for example as we roll into year 40(?) of COVID we have full on collectively agreed (here in the US specifically) to just ignore it politely and hope it goes away. We ignore the deaths, rationalize it, say the count is wrong, downplay it, and flat out lie about the reality we’re living in. The sad part is that 9/11 was a one time thing. People died and yes, death is sad. Avoidable death should be prevented, and we should, in fact, take steps to prevent it from happening again.
But today I’m reminded that we’ve lost far more people to COVID, in some cases more in a single day, yet we decided to do nothing. And for that I’m reminded that if it weren’t for the fact that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by peoples of a different skin color, we probably would’ve just ignored that too. Nothing brings people together like good ol’ fashioned racism under the thin veil of patriotism.
We of course did the same thing when COVID hit. Blaming China for something that came from nature and could’ve easily spawned in the US as it could’ve anywhere else. The 1918 flu pandemic, ostensibly called the “Spanish flu” started in the US and was only called the “Spanish flu” because Spain was the first to bother covering it.
I guess this year, like after looking at my previous post, apparently I had similar feelings last year (here), I can’t help but contemplate, why? Why we need a foreign enemy for us to effect change. We have plenty of terrorists right here, in the US, that get away with being terrorists because they look like most of the people in the US. We have people in power who support those terrorists, because they are white, because they are “real Americans,” and in a lot of ways I have to agree. The US was founded on racism and that is so fundamental to the US that when you try to teach history, it’s literally against the law in some states to talk about racism because that’s speaking out against the US.
How high do the bodies need to pile up before we do something different? This year we now have COVID, monkeypox, and polio. Yes, polio is making a comeback and it’s enough that New York has declared an emergency because of it. You know how you minimize or even stop the spread of polio and COVID? Masks. Something the US seems to despise despite the ever increasing danger to the general public.
This year it seems I can’t help but point out the fact that we have three pandemics, but no one with the will to do something about it because we can’t use racism to gather support needed to do something about it. I’m sure people will try, it’s hard not to fall back on it, especially as both monkeypox and polio start spreading more widely.
I thought I had a good grasp on the US tolerance for death. When I was younger, I thought 9/11 amount of death was more than enough to cause long lasting, serious changes to the way we did things. I really did. It’s sad that when COVID hit I went into this with roughly that expectation. When the death numbers climbed high enough, high enough that people could no longer ignore it, we would do something about it. Something serious, something long lasting, something that stopped it.
I was naive, it wasn’t the death from 9/11 that caused that long lasting change, it was the racism attached to it. I should’ve realized it sooner, how many school shootings do we have? Daily almost, sometimes multiple in one day. Yet, nothing comes of it. If anything policies that are actively driving school shootings are getting worse.
Three pandemics, one late stage and two just starting. Technically you could call monkeypox and polio an epidemic at the moment, but it won’t stay that way long. I can’t predict the future, but I do remember the past. It’s going to get worse and it may not get better frankly. We lack that bit of magic that would codify certain segments of the population into changing things. We don’t have the racism element to lean into, so the small, but incredibly vocal minority, which mind you, is far over represented in our government, won’t allow it.
We said never forget. But we said a lot of things, without Googling it, do you know when pearl harbor day is? I’m sure some do, but most people would probably be confused as to what I’m even talking about. No, I’m not optimistic about our future because we haven’t learned anything from our past. We ignore it hoping it will go away, which is the same strategy we apply to COVID, monkeypox, and I’m sure polio. We in the general sense, in the US anyway, will ignore anything that doesn’t fit within a certain narrative.
Sadly, in case you haven’t noticed, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. I’m not trying to be a downer or saying all is lost. No, I’m saying we need to do something to protect ourselves and others because the failure is coming from the top. We are the people in the, “We the people” and it’s our right, our duty in fact, to hold the people accountable who should be passing laws and enacting programs to help take care of us.
But hey, it’s another 9/11 so maybe I’m being an unpatriotic asshole. So let’s do the US thing, ignore the racism and let’s focus simply on the lives that were lost in that attack. We SHOULD remember it with as much solemn dignity as we can muster while we * checks notes * attend the guantanamo bay 9/11 bowling tournament (I wish I were joking).
I never thought I would string those words together, but here we are.