The following is a rumination on 9/11. All sorts of trigger warnings & suggestions to move on if you wish.
It’s impossible to ignore it, as it defines life in these United States in the 21st Century. It is the start the New American Age. Today is September 11. We are 18 years away from the attacks on the World Trade Center & Pentagon. If it were a person, it would be old enough to actually serve in the war that came out of that. Just something to think about.
It’s fascinating to be able to look back that & still have a solid grasp of what life was like before that. I’m reminded of something Merle Haggard told me in an interview (paraphrased): “This country partied until 1929 when the Recession hit, & it never recovered.” This was just after the start of the Iraq War in 2003, & he was convinced that 9/11 was another one of those turns in history.
“Everything changed on 9/11,” you hear, but that’s not exactly true. We Americans never quite appreciated how our relative geographic isolation from the rest of the world affects our perception. Furthermore, as soon as we got our shit together, we went about making sure Latin America jumped when we said jump, or we tried like hell, in actuality. That’s probably the worst, like herding angry cats that you’re actively making angrier.
So, while the rest of the world had shit blow up on the regular, it’d been a while for us to any extent. And this was a major event, something anyone would have difficulties wrapping their head around. The Oklahoma City Bombings were shocking & dividing. But 3,000 people, just like that, gone & the world irrevocably changed our perception of it.
And we got the Fear. We loathed anyone who did not love us, who did not agree that we are the very best. Jingoism sprouted like dandelions where Patriotism barely existed. I was in high school when the first Gulf Conflict went down, & the Jingoism then was almost comical, but what happened post-9/11 was no joking matter, son. There was no room for humor or gaiety in the New American Age.
You don’t want the Terrorists to win, do you? Then no laughter. No flippancy, this is Serious Business, buckaroo. You must Obey The Government, because otherwise you’re not patriotic. The Government knows what’s best for you. That was a weird stroke, wasn’t it? The Republican Party, sworn to Smaller Government like an errant knight, oversaw the largest expansion of government control over Everything since FDR & the New Deal.
And enthusiastically so. To do otherwise was to Aid The Terrorists. Let the government spy on your emails? Sure. Give daily “terror warning alerts”? Most definitely. Encourage people to turn in their friends, neighbors & even family? To even doubt it draws questions about your patriotism. The Government Was Doing Something, who are you to question it? Perhaps you don’t love America enough, that must be it.
George W. Bush, previously seen as a jug-eared goober, the malapropism-prone youngest, dumbest son of a political dynasty that beat out the smart kid dynasty. Then he became more popular than Jesus Christ, John Wayne & Elvis all put together. For the brief moment before Iraq turned sour & we all just got tired of how much work Patriotism was, Junior walked on guided splinters & could do no wrong.
We went to war with an ideology to seize better control over the oil we all need to survive. We gave ourselves no way out because we truly & fully believed we’d be greeted as heroes & liberators. They want us there to oust that awful ideology that Didn’t Love Us.
They hated us for our Freedoms & we pretended that actually meant something. I was there, friend, I saw it happen in Real Time. I saw people terrify themselves on a daily basis, so frightened they’d snap at you like a rabid dog if you weren’t as scared.
Some of us are embarrassed by how silly the Patriotism made us. I knew a dude that shunned French products & supported British products after the former wasn’t down to invade Iraq. Freedom fries. Remember freedom fries? Wasn’t that just the most obnoxious, pea-brained, meaningless shit?
We were frightened toddlers who never got more indignant than if you pointed that out.
For a while, everyone was on our side. You don’t attack America. You don’t kill 3,000 people Just ‘Case. Kick the living shit out of the Taliban & get those fundamentalist buttholes to leave Afghanistan alone (because fucking around with Afghanistan always worked out for major powers). It’d be a mess & nasty, but they were with us.
But Iraq? Nah, son, you’re on your own with that one. We lied, threatened, insulted, & eventually pissed all over that good will until Our Leaders were considered persona non grata across the globe. And eventually We The People got tired of paying the bill when all the reasons we told ourselves that this was good & pure & righteous rotted in the desert Sun. Eighteen years later, we’re still feeding young people to the Grinder because… why again?
We’ve stayed mistrustful, we’ve maintained the Fear. ICE, the awful department of harassing poor people from South of the Border, started because of this madness. The government listens to everything you say, & Corporate America is eagerly giving up all they can give up. Traveling by air is almost not worth the groping you might get, but we won’t give up the hassle.
Nor will we give up the Fear. And that Fear is why we were more than happy to let a third-rate con man & TV show host, a celebrity for just being famous, run the country despite a string of abject failures in the one are he was supposed to be a genius because a party of fools, thieves & zealots find him useful.
And they’re still trying to pull similar shit, not the exact same shit. Six people have died from… something to do with vaping, so the Trump administration jumps to ban e-cigarettes. Over 50 people, at least, shot up with AR-15’s for no good reason beyond some asshole decided he had the right to decide who lived & who died. Because of the Fear. The Illusion of Government, they’re doing something. That’s what really matters, isn’t it? Or don’t you love America? The Government knows what’s Best.
Eighteen years later, he we are. Still frightened, still nervous, barely holding on, & will stomp you until you spit teeth if you try to take from us or even look at us funny. Only turned up to 11 & full of cheap cocaine. Even so, we’re too weak & too divided & just flat-out too poorly run to fix things.
This is Not Normal, even though Normal wasn’t that great anyway. What is normal, anyway? Did the Fear cause us to elect a Crooked Fool, or was that the inevitability of the American Experiment and/or Democracy. Whichever gets you hard, which ever works best.
I said it yesterday & I’ll say it again: be careful out there, friends & neighbors. It’s done got Weird.