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.