The Anniversary Ripe for Exploitation
It's now been five years since the United States experienced the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil. And while I believe in remembering the day and the nearly 3,000 people who were murdered that day in the name of religious extremism, I find I am filled with skepticism. Five years later I cannot imagine, and there are times when I truly try, the carnage that was seen by people who survived that day - the images of death and destruction, the smells, the panic in not being able to catch your breath because your lungs have filled with dust and soot - the pain of knowing that for some reason you made it out while others didn't. September 11, 2001 was truly one of the worst days in the history of this nation and yet I am sickened by the way it has been exploited.
I am conflicted because while I want to "never forget," I am disgusted by the in your face exploitation of this particular anniversary. I am sickened by the television movie playing on ABC right now that is filled with inaccuracies and outright lies about the events that led up to the 9/11 attacks. I am disgusted at how the U.S. government is using this anniversary to rally its citizens into believing that "staying the course" in Iraq will protect us from another devastating attack by terrorists. I was saddened as I watched the national anthem being sung at the NY Giants-Colts Sunday Night football game while images of the former World Trade Center site were among images of Rudy Guliani proudly singing the anthem while New York firefighters and police officers were brought to tears and the scene capped off by the mandatory flyovers of military helicopters and jets. Add the screaming fans who were a hootin' and a hollerin' - it couldn't have been written any better if it were the closing scene in a propaganda film.
But wait a minute, wasn't it set up as such?
I just hate feeling manipulated and this is just another example of the grotesque exploitation of human tragedies. These anniversaries, they are nothing but a way to make the rest of us feel better about not thinking about those who died on 9/11 the other 364 days of the year. I mean, if you were lucky enough not to have lost someone close to you on that day then can you honestly say that you give the event all that much thought until you start being bombarded by it through the media? Don't you think that those who did lose loved ones are reminded everyday about their loss and yet, they must go on with their lives and that's what they do. They don't need to be hounded by reporters every year to report on how they're doing; They're alive, they're living, they're taking care of their children and they're making a life for themselves without their husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, aunt, close friend because they have no choice. They aren't to be gawked at and exploited for their pain so that Dubyah and his crew can justify the mess they've gotten this country into.
And what a mess it is . . . What have we learned over the last five years regarding this most horrific of acts? Well, first of all, we've learned that it wasn't the unexpected sucker punch to the gut that our government first wanted us to believe it was. There was information in the hands of the people who had the power to do something about it stating that there was potential for terrorists to use commercial airliners in an attack against the U.S. on U.S. soil. Now whether they could have ever figured out the targets or the precise manner in which the planes would be used - I don't know. But what burns me the most is being lied to. We were told, and still some believe, that the U.S. government could have never imagined such an attack. Of course they couldn't have imagined it, they didn't have to!! The information was there and it remained on a desk, the "I'll get to it later after I get back from my ranch in Crawford or my quaint little getaway at Camp David," pile. So, yes, they made a mistake in not taking the threats seriously, but what I find unacceptable is that they lied to the people of this country about it instead of owning up.
Second, we've learned that there NEVER was any connection between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. How many times did we hear after September 11, 2001 that Hussein had aided the terrorists and that it was in the best interest of this country to topple Hussein's regime in order to prevent future attacks? Too many to count. So we went to Iraq looking for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and what we got was a civil war and the perfect environment, (read "chaos") for training new terrorists.
Afterall, wasn't Dubyah's rationale to go where the terrorists are: Afghanistan and Iraq. But wait a minute, what about Madrid a couple of years back? There are terrorists in Spain apparently. And, hold on, what about he two dozen arrested in Great Britain a few weeks back on suspicion of planning another terrorist attack using jetliners? Are we going to invade London next? The problem is that the War on Terror doesn't exist because it is a war against an ideology just as the terrorists on 9/11 declared a war on the U.S. because of its ideologies. They weren't able to destroy the good old "American Way" just as we are unable to stop religious extremism.
And just one more thing I'd like to point out - we've learned over the past five years that the government appreciates the service of the emergency responders and countless volunteers who worked to rescue anyone they could find in those first few days after the attacks so much so that we made t-shirts and hats in their honor, set up scholarship funds and the like, but when the survivors started coming down with strange respiratory illnesses they were told to find help on their own.
They were told that their maladies had nothing to do with their participation in the rescue operations even though there was dust and dirt that covered these brave men and women from head to toe and there were no respirators handed out in those first few days - and still they worked. These men and women have suffered great physical and sometimes emotional stress and pain because of what they saw and what they took into their bodies simply by breathing in the middle of so much rubble and they were told, "It's not our problem," by the government that's supposed to honor and revere their great service. Only in recent days and weeks has there been any progress made in acknowledging that many of these emergency workers are ill because of their work in and among the rubble of September 11th.
I, too, remember hearing on the radio that the World Trade Center buildings had been hit by an airplane, not once but twice, and that officials believed we were "under attack." I remember thinking that it couldn't be true that something else was going on, that there must be some other explanation. I was glued to my television with the rest of the country as the Twin Towers fell and we all knew that thousands of people had lost their lives that day . . . I remember the strange, peaceful silence in the skies during those first few days following the tragedy when all airplanes were grounded. I remember my immediate look to the skies, in the middle of an English Literature class, with all of my classmates when we heard that first airplane fly overhead.
And I will stop and remember those that died on this day, five years ago; I will remember their families especially who have endured another year without their loved ones and have had to struggle to find some way to carry on; I will remember all those that still suffer with nightmares and illness because of what they experienced that day and those weeks following; I will remember to hold my government responsible for insuring that this doesn't happen again and I will hold them responsible for lying to me, for exploiting my emotions, for believing that I was not smart enough to see what was really going on.
I will remember it this November when I vote . . . and I will make the blackest of marks so there is no mistake in November 2008 when I vote for a President that will take the citizens of this country seriously and realize that he works for us; that he isn't a King; that he has to follow the laws of this land; that he can't lie to me over and over again and expect me to take it lying down. I'm tired of remembering, but holding no one accountable.