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Another 11th

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.

4 responses

  1. Thinking back to those times, I can remember people complaining about the Patriot Act, the X-ray body scanners, etc. And at least some of those were conservatives or libertarians: the same types who’ve made the biggest stink about the COVID restrictions. There just wasn’t the same degree of anger; no protests or disruptive truck convoys, no people refusing to comply with rules and then screaming at airport staff when they weren’t allowed to get on their flight. At least not that I ever heard of. I think the mask and vaccine mandates went away because there was a contingent who basically decided they’d create civil unrest over them. The difference is certainly jarring, but … I have a bunch of guesses about it.

    If we consider the general class of angry right-wing people who feel ready to overthrow “big government” in the name of “liberty” … the post-9/11 changes came from their own political tribe. So they could complain, but not enough to do actual damage to those leaders’ future prospects of getting elected. COVID mitigations were … for whatever reason … largely championed by the Left and opposed by the Right, so they were fair game for an all-out attack. If the Other Side wants it, it must be bad, because the Other Side is bad.

    The post-9/11 changes didn’t have a direct, profound impact on most Americans’ lives, either. Airport security is a brief hurdle that only applies to you when and if you fly. Government surveillance is invisible until it bites. The people who really got hurt by these things were too small in number to make the rest of the country think it mattered to them. But shutdowns and mask mandates impacted pretty much everyone, even if the impact was no bigger than “it annoyed me.”

    I have no qualms about criticizing my own relatives and the other people I grew up around. So if I could remember a case of one of them being racist, I’d tell you. I can’t, though. What I do have memories of is them being nationalist. Consciously or subconsciously, they believe our policies should treat Americans (regardless of color) as more important than any other people of the world (regardless of color). It’s right in the slogan, “America First.” This is in turn rooted not in our country’s majority-whiteness, but in some notion that we have superior culture and values (mmm …), fairly earned all of our security and prosperity and therefore have no obligation to share it (hahaha no), or simply need to “take care of our own” and have zero moral responsibilities to anyone outside our political unit (ew).

    And you might be thinking “well that’s not much better than racism” and I’d agree with you. But I think it’s valuable to split hairs here. If you harangue someone who’s just nationalist about racism, it’s all too easy for them to brush you off. “Well I’m not racist, so clearly you aren’t talking to me, or you’re lying about me.” You have to call out what they’re really guilty of if you want to get anywhere. And I’m not trying to claim there’s no racism in the mix either, I just think it’s not pervasive enough to explain everything.

    And last of all, I think death-by-violence galvanizes people more than death-by-accident or death-by-natural-causes. A virus doesn’t kill anyone “on purpose” because it’s not an agent, so you can be sad about the deaths but there’s nothing to get you angry. (Except negligence, and nobody wants to admit they’re part of the problem.) But villains get people angry. Having an enemy is a good motivator and, if you add in the nationalism, a foreign enemy is a great motivator.

    Well that went long. Hope you don’t mind. I haven’t been hearing a lot of noise about monkeypox lately (even from people I trust to care about public health), so I hope that means it isn’t turning into a major problem. I absolutely hate the polio thing. It’s a horrifying disease and we stinkin’ eradicated it here and were on track to eradicate it worldwide. We’re throwing away one of our better accomplishments, what are people doing.

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    September 11, 2022 at 5:27 pm

    • Haha I don’t mind the length! My response turned out to be just as long, if not longer!

      Yeah I guess a pandemic situation affects more people than trouble at airports, but it still feels disproportionate to the dangers IMO. I do agree that early on, for whatever reason, there was a huge political divide on either to respond to the pandemic or to ignore it. I guess historically this is not an unheard of situation, but it still was/is shocking to be living through it.

      While I agree that on the surface “America first” comes across as nationalist and I’m not suggesting that people don’t join the movement purely out of a nationalistic drive, but the movement itself was a racist reaction.

      Ironically Germany (the Nazi’s, because of course) had the Germany first slogan and you’ll see a lot of the slogans literally copied directly from the Nazi’s. Then there’s the whole Nazi party was just mimicking the US to begin with (albeit arguably to a more extreme stance, at the time). There’s an old saying that if you have nine people sitting at a table and a Nazi joins them you have ten Nazis and I think that holds true for the “America first” movement.

      You have a group of people who are, if not outright a neo-Nazi, are people who have no problem with literal neo-Nazi’s joining them.

      So yeah, I agree there are plenty of people in the moment who may not be an outright neo-Nazi, but when the person who’s marching right next to you is, well…

      I’m hoping monkeypox doesn’t start becoming more of a problem, but right now it’s still following a rough exponential curve, which as we’ve seen isn’t a problem until it’s a problem. I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best, there’s not much else we can do at this point.

      With the fact that polio is droplet spread (like COVID), I’m nervous that if it becomes widespread things are going to get far worse before anything gets better. I mean I don’t think politicians would suddenly come together and support mask mandates when COVID is arguably more deadly, but I don’t know how many pandemics need to happen all at once before something changes. I’m not losing hope or giving up, but I am trying to brace myself that reality won’t live up to the expectation I have.

      Liked by 1 person

      September 12, 2022 at 6:51 pm

      • I think we’re more or less on the same page here. I was trying to say that individual citizens – both those involved in what happened post-9/11, and those in some of the right-wing movements now – have a variety of motives that aren’t all reducible to racism. And again, this is not to justify anybody, but more in the spirit of accurate diagnosis.

        The underlying goals of the ones introducing the changes or leading the movements are a different matter, and there I’ll defer to you.

        Maybe I’m being too sanguine – the lows some people have hit in just the last few years have surprised me – but I don’t think most of the right-leaning types I know would willingly keep company with a neo-Nazi. The issue is convincing them the Nazi is really at the table, and wasn’t just made up to discredit them. That he didn’t crash the march, he was invited.

        In case it’s not clear, I appreciate your perspective and your willingness to talk about this. I’m mainly trying to add in my personal experience. Insofar as I’m poking at things, I hope it’s gentle. Undermining you would be the opposite of my job.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 12, 2022 at 11:43 pm

      • No worries! I’m glad you share your opinions and you’re always welcome to voice whatever you want!

        I think we’re on the same page too and I appreciate you taking a more nuanced view on everything. It helps me keep things in perspective and gives me new ways to look at things.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 13, 2022 at 6:45 pm

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