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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reflections on 9/11/01: Seven Years Later

The seventh anniversary will occur tomorrow, and in all that time, we've learned the wrong lessons. A large part of me wants to be angry, but I just can't manage it right now. Either way, I can do nothing about it alone.

On September 11, 2001, 2,974, excluding the 19 hijackers and the 24 people still missing, lost their lives. Many more are suffering, physically and/or emotionally, as a result of these attacks. I truly do not wish to seem like I'm making light of this horror. However, during Hurricane Katrina, 1,836 people lost their lives with 705 people still missing, and that's not counting those who lost their lives due to increased crime rates, preexisting medical conditions exacerbated by the extreme heat and stress, and those who took their own lives. During Pearl Harbor, 2,402 people died, and over 1,200 were wounded. The impact to our naval assets in the Pacific was even greater. Finally, 168 people died at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, when it was bombed; 800+ were injured.

These are all large numbers, each with a terrible toll in lives lost and hearts broken. However, let's take some more numbers from one of the years since then, 2005. If you want to check these figures, here's the link. The numbers are: 652,091; 559,312; 143,579; 130,933; 117,809; 75,119; 71,599; 63,001; 43,901; 34,136; 32,637; 27,530; 24,902; 19,544; 18,124; and 433,800. I will combine the number of missing in the terrorist acts, act of war, and natural disaster listed in the previous paragraph, while excluding the 19 hijackers, to arrive at a combined figure of 8,109 dead in those catastrophes. 8,109 is a terrible number, a terrible toll in lives taken. Let's look at that long list of other numbers, though. Those are the number of dead in 2005 of the following causes in the order they are shown above: diseases of the heart; cancers; cerebrovascular diseases; chronic lower respiratory diseases; accidents; diabetes mellitus; Alzheimer's disease; influenza and pneumonia; nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis; septicemia; suicide; chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; primary hypertension and hypertensive renal disease; Parkinson's disease; homicide; and all other causes. This brings a total of 2,448,017 people who died in the United States in 2005. That amounts to the combined toll of these tragedies dying every 1,741 minutes, or if you want to look at 9/11, that's one 9/11 every 643.7 minutes, give or take. Think about that.

After Oklahoma City, the terrorists didn't win. After Pearl Harbor, another nation-state did not win. After Katrina, to be brutally honest, nobody won. However, after the September 11, 2008 terrorist attacks, the terrorists won. They didn't win by destroying several buildings in New York City, or by crashing an airplane into the Pentagon, or by crashing an airplane into a field in Pennsylvania. Buildings can be rebuilt. Lives, while the pain lasts for all those who lost someone in that attack, go on. No, the lasting victories for the terrorists occurred in Congress, in the White House, and in the other halls of power in our government. The lasting victories occurred when people were taken off the streets and subjected to "extraordinary rendition" or "enhanced interrogation" or had their communications illegally intercepted, or whenever an innocent has their name wrongfully placed on a "terrorist watch list" with no notification or recourse. The terrorists' lasting victories occur every time a police officer decides to use excessive or unnecessary force. But most importantly, the terrorists' lasting victories occur every time one of our freedoms, the selfsame freedoms many of our ancestors and other loved ones fought and died for, is abridged in the name of "national security." We have friendly neighbors to our north and south. We need not fear them, and in fact, we should love them as we do ourselves. No, the most likely way our nation will be destroyed is from within, and such is not a new state of affairs.

I love this nation. I love its most noble ideals. I love its people. Hell, I even love the backwater I'm from. How, then, must it hurt to see this nation succumbing to a cancer within? I want people to hurt, and I want them to be angry, and I want to see PEACEFUL protests not unlike what we've seen with Critical Mass. But most importantly, I want to see that spirit of protest carried into each polling place in the United States of America. For those who have done well, to those who have defended our rights and fulfilled the duties of their office responsibly, reward them with your support. However, for those who have abridged our freedoms for their own ends, for those who have not been good stewards of the nation with whose future they have been entrusted, show them your wrath by voting for someone who WILL listen and protect our freedoms. Show them your wrath by telling them "NO MORE! DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT!" No more.

I said earlier that I'm not angry, and it's true. I'm not angry. The anger is gone. All that's left is a bone-weariness and sorrow for what we've lost, for what we've allowed ourselves to lose. We screwed up as a people, either directly through our actions, or indirectly by voting the wrong people in and standing silent. It is time for us to correct our mistakes, through peaceful means. We are a nation of laws and of respect for differing opinions. We are a nation of respecting others' right to peacefully express their opinions. It is through these means, and these means alone, that lasting, positive change can occur.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton once said the following at a speech in 1866: "A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power." In that sense, we are in desperate need of reform. I am no revolutionary. I am merely someone who is starving for reform.

I will close this post with a moment of Zen from one of my favorite musicians, Moby. Enjoy.


Sheryl said...

Was there a reason you wrote September 11, 2008 rather than 2001?

Anyway, I agree with this basic premise of this post as I understand it.

I thought at the time that people were being a bit hysterical over something that is an every day tragedy in some countries of the world, and sometimes that is even from our doing. The amazing thing was at the time the world at large was also in shock and mourning over our loss. If we'd played our cards right, we could have used that to our and the world's advantage. *sigh*

Snave said...

If you are suggesting that America has lost some of its will and strength as a result of what happened seven years ago, I would have to agree. Sadly, this national tragedy has provided no learning experience for America other than that if something bad happens, there will be people around who'll use the tragedy as a means to their own ends. People's emotions are going to be preyed upon.

I think the Bush administration was the wrong administration to have in place at the wrong time. Ever seeking ways to crack down on and control Americans, "9-11" gave them the excuse to go ahead with their agenda. We have seen things such as the start of the DHS, Total Information Awareness and Real ID come about because those who want to control would prey on our fears to convince us of the need for such repressive measures. Those who wanted to see America go that way had their excuse to take it farther down that road.

What would the natural progression from this kind of thinking take us to over a period of years? Camps? Martial law? No more Constitution?

I don't know if this makes me a social/civil libertarian or what, but I fear that our liberties being stripped away. It won't happen overnight, but a few decades from now I would wager this nation is going to look a lot different unless we have genuine reform. When it comes to its involvement in our personal lives in regard to our civil liberties, I have come to think the government needs to be very, very small.

I am not sure Obama will be much of a reformer if he gets elected, but I think he MIGHT be. I feel almost certain that McCain won't offer ANY kinds of reforms in the areas I just mentioned.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

There is, in fact, a horrible, terrible, nefarious reason I typed September 11, 2008. In fact, it's a reason that will shake the very foundations of this nation, Sheryl. That reason: I'm a dumbass, and I typed 2008 instead of 2001 by mistake. :P I've corrected it now.

I think you have a pretty good understanding of my post: The terrorists won on September 11, 2001, and all it took was our apathy and fear to let it happen.

Snave, I would go further and say that we've lost our very soul. I see fascism in our future, and I see the seeds of it planted today. As for Senator Obama, his record gives me serious reason to hope he will be the kind of reformer that is needed.

Since civil libertarianism addresses only civil liberties and social freedoms and is not a comprehensive political philosophy in and of itself, it is entirely possible for you to be a very liberal person and a civil libertarian.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I wonder if my posts would make for good speeches. If anyone wants to use this post, it's free for use without attribution. Knowledge is free. I just want this voice heard.

1138 said...

I am at the edge of thinking that we may be beyond reform.
The terrorists we are at most at risk from are within and they don't explode weapons on our shores, they exploit them here and explode them there.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

1138, it was that dark thought that I wished to leave unvoiced that led to my 9/11 memorial post. If we have not already fallen off the cliff, I fear we are dangerously close to that precipice. In generations to come, will people still celebrate America as a living idea, or will they recite its eulogy?

1138 said...

They've driven me to the point where 911 doesn't matter any more.
It's part, just part of our burning of the Reichstag, maybe not done on purpose but used to full effect.

In so many ways, this is no longer America. It has never perfect, but it has lost far more in the last 8 years that our founding fathers could have even imagined.

Candace said...

Hi, Fred. Excellent post!

I think President Obama could accomplish a great deal in the way of reform IF, AND ONLY IF, he has the Congress and we the people behind him every day, 24/7. I'm talking not just calling and emailing our reps, but taking to the streets en masse when necessary to be heard. It's going to take our total commitment and involvement in the reform process. No one could do this alone, and there are many forces that will be doing everything they can to see to it that he fails.

Glad to see you and 1138 commenting together again.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Thanks, Candace. Sorry I haven't been by your blog lately.

You're right. It's going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (though hopefully not literally on the first point; the last we've seen too much of already) to get things back where they need to be. I think with a friendly Congress, while it won't be easy, it'll be significantly easier than it might otherwise have been.

1138 and I started getting along better once I realized I was being an asshole and took corrective measures. :) The "realizing I'm an asshole" part was the easy part. It was the contrition that was hard for my pride. Still, it was right and necessary that I do so, and while I will always regret the way I mistreated him, I will take that lesson and go forward and do my best to be a better person.