Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nostalgia for Horror? No, Thanks

If the ceremonies and 40 (!) or so TV programs today commemorating the 10th anniversary terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon do anything at all to bring a measure of comfort to the survivors of those crimes and the loved ones of those who died, then they will have justified themselves. But count me out.

I see no need to set aside time to remember something I'm in no danger of forgetting. And I see no chance at all that the commemorations will deal with the real truths of that day and what's happened since. Deep down, all Americans know these truths. Our inability to confront them is what will be on display today. Since the Puritans, fraudulent piety has been one of our primary national coping mechanisms.

It's a short story. September 11, 2001 happened because we, the American people as a society, dropped the ball. And we've been kicking the ball around the right field corner ever since. From blithe unconcern with a remote but real chance of catastrophe (we let people carry knives on airplanes?!?! I didn't believe that was true when I first heard it.) we seamlessly morphed into a mindset where fear hit for the cycle on a daily basis. Fear might be the only basis for decision-making that's worse than blind happy ignorance.

The consequences of letting fear and its partner anger make our choices for us are too well-known to recount here. We changed for the worse in just about every way you care to name. To me anyway, nothing indicates the difference between the U.S. in September, 2001 and September, 2011 than the group identity of two sets of civil servants who'll be lauded to the heavens today, and rightly so.

The First Responders. The heroes of 9/11. New York City cops and firefighters. You still see plenty of people wearing NYPD and NYFD commemorative clothing, baseball caps, T-shirts, etc.

In just about every U.S. political jurisdiction, city, town or state, there's a political opinion today, often that of the majority, that yesteryear's First Responders have a new identity. They are part of the Greedy Public Employee Unions sucking the blood from the self-reliant taxpayers. The inconvenience of taxation to pay for public services generates as much or more anger than the memory of a horrible atrocity and its perpetrators. Anger has that way of taking over, doesn't it? Anger and fear breed selfishness, which breeds further fear, and so on down, and I do mean down, the line.

A society that tells people it pays to be heroes if necessary that they cost too much is not on the march to further peace and prosperity. Neither is a society that knows full well its leadership, public and private, has screwed the pooch six ways from Sunday for ten years yet lacks the willpower to find really new leaders. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the "healing" in the preceding decade has been nothing more than Blind Happy Ignorance getting some share of the national psyche back from Fear and Anger. I'd say it's about 50-50 now.

The United States of America sits at an unhappy medium most uncool.


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