Tuesday, November 23, 2004

9/11 Changed Everything

To say that “9/11 changed everything” has become a cliché. It has also become an excuse. The Bush Administration has used the events of September 11th, 2001 to explain, in part, every failing and problem of the last four years.

The reason why this narrative works is that most of us accept uncritically the idea that Evil is Other. And the bigger the Evil, the more distant must the Other be. “They” – the terrorists – are crazy, are overcome by fear and loathing of freedom. "We" - the Americans - are different from "Them" in all respects.

So it is easy to locate problems and failures with the Other, safely insulating ourselves from any blame. We can happily shop at Walmart, secure in the notion that consumerism is the path to all things American and good. Nagging issues like trade deficits are assigned arcane and remote causes. It is no accident that Bush’s message to America in the wake of 9/11 was: Shop.

Any attempt to see an ounce of humanity in the men – both desperate and despicable – who took their own lives and those of over 3000 other people is viewed as an excuse of their actions. Or worse yet – as an exoneration.

Any attempt to see in ourselves any degree of agency in the events leading to 9/11 is greeted with hysterical accusations of Blaming America First.

The narrative of America the Benign Agent of Freedom and Goodness vs The Insane Hate-Filled Enemies of Freedom and Goodness must not be challenged.

It will be the purpose of this blog to plunge deep into this forbidden territory. I reject the idea that to explain is to excuse. I reject the idea that to question is to invite danger. I reject the idea that humanity is either “good” or “evil”.

9/11 changed nothing.

The America that emerged on September the 12th was the same America that had been forming and evolving for years. We were just as vulnerable on September 10th, even if we didn’t know it. The rage that fueled the attacks did not spring fully formed from the ether on that day.

9/11 changed everything.

The American Polity crystallized and hardened along the existing faults and fractures. We shook off the denial of our imperial role in the world and embraced or rejected it. We were forced to look for a brief moment at our common humanity with and impact on the rest of the world. And in an instant, we forcefully erected new barriers and created new archetypes to run as fast we could back to normalcy.

9/11 changed nothing.

For anyone that might happen to stumble onto this, I welcome your thoughtful comments. In the days to come, I hope to expand on these ideas and add more. The posts will be sometimes political, sometimes philosophical, but –hopefully – always provocative.

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