My views on America post-9/11/01 are neither popular nor favorable, and yet I am compelled to revisit them, annually, on the day that I feel the (probably illusory) America of my childhood, the one I was actually happy to live in, even proud of, died. As Facebook is pasted with solemn macros of remembrance, and Twitter inundated with the annual slough of retweeted slogans, I am admonished to remember, to never forget (and how anyone could, I have no clue), to relive the experience of that moment, the footage played on infinite loop for weeks, months, years; planes crashing into buildings, destroying thousands, millions of lives in two flashing, horrible moments. I am brought back to the day when America was attacked for (pinky swear) no reason whatsoever, and we all got (had) to pretend it was Pearl Harbor again and we the noble giant, once more aroused.
So, to recap: Eleven years ago today, a double fistful of religious fanatics successfully destroyed the American economy (by drawing us into at least two unending military engagements-cum-money pits) and left the country an emotional wreck. 3,000 human beings were instantly transformed into a flail with which our nation beat itself into a violent frenzy. The image of two burning skyscrapers became a blank check for the erasure of civil liberties and civil discourse, no objections conscionable, none brooked. I was mortified when confronted with this hideous aspect of our national character that I had not previously been aware of, at least not to the extent that it manifested after the attack. It was the birth, or rather, the revelation of a monster named 'Murrica.
Suddenly, everyone was just a little bit of a hawk, if not outright screaming for blood. Flags popped up like weeds. The military-industrial complex was given a pass on every little thing. Independents and moderates jumped to the Right, on the general assumption that in times of war, you want a Republican in charge, not some pussy LIBERAL. In fact, what's wrong with those liberals over there, not waving their flags like real 'Murricans? Do they have no sense of national pride?? ARE THEY SECRETLY IN LEAGUE WITH THE TERRORISTS? Suddenly, liberalism, which had always been something to be tolerated as a "phase" young people go through (meaning Boomers had gone through and largely abandoned for parts greedier) was a dangerous breeding ground for terrorist sympathizers.
Skepticism about the PATRIOT Act was pretty much treason (as defined by the PATRIOT Act). After all, how can you object to this? The word "patriot" is right there in the title. Aren't you a patriot? We're all patriots now! The President said so on the teevee! "Patriotism" was suddenly compulsory, much like "school spirit" during any given high school homecoming week. You weren't allowed to sit it out, you weren't really allowed to express ambivalence, much less wariness about blindly following along with the popular narrative. After all, 3,000 people had (like a bunch of Christs in miniature) died for us, had "sacrificed their lives" so that we could... I never got that part. If there was a sacrifice, it wasn't for us, it wasn't instead of us, it was along with us.
I hate, more than anything, the way those people were used, are still used, to justify every atrocity our government and society commits. Those people were victims, not soldiers. They didn't choose that, they didn't reveal some magical path to glory, or highlight how awesome America is; they were killed, against their will, by a bunch of evil bastards who (much like our own administration thereafter) saw them as nothing more than symbols with which to manipulate the rest of the population. They are no longer allowed to have been people unjustly ended; they are martyrs for a cause, the pilot light by which the Crusade is lit, proof positive that THEY (those MUSLIMS) hate freedom, and happiness, and Christmas and candy. Calling the victims of the 9/11 attacks "heroes", while an understandable impulse, also glorifies their deaths, and that's something I can not feel comfortable doing. I mourned, but in so doing I was absolutely horrified at the way that mourning was turned against me, and anyone like me, who didn't support the unchecked militaristic backlash that this country experienced thereafter.
After the initial psychotic breakdown, it took years of military-industrial therapy and soothing nationalist mantras for the country to begin to recover some semblance of equilibrium. It has yet to be seen whether the brain damage is irrevocable, or whether democracy can be salvaged from the nation's post-traumatic acts of self-destruction. We are still at war, and even after the "war" is ended, will continue to police that region of the world until the last bowl of oatmeal is yanked from the hands of the last starving man we have abandoned to his fate. We, as a nation, lost our capacity for reason, and we never got it back. We are still afraid of brown people. We still let war hawks scare us into a lather every now and then. We still haven't repealed the bulk of the PATRIOT Act. Liberals are still scorned as "enemies of freedom" though by a shrinking number of apocalyptic holdouts.
So, every year, on 9/11, I trot out my old gripes about the real destruction wreaked by the attacks, in which America surrendered actual freedom in the name of "defending freedom", replaced discourse with slogans, weaponized the dead, and allowed violent paranoia to hijack democracy and the economy such that we may never recover (no matter who wins the presidency). I also reaffirm my dedication to hard line skepticism in the face of unexamined nationalist flag-waving, red white and blue theocracy, "of thee I sing" Forefather worship and the anti-democratic consequences thereof. I assert that I love my country to the extent that it still exists; that I love freedom more than faux-patriotism; that I value my fellow Americans, but do not trust them; that I embrace the astonishing potential of the American Republic but fear and despise its evil twin, 'Murrica; and that I will never forget the cost of the attacks that so effectively shut down the nobler aspects of my country which on occasion have made it worth loving.