I didn’t know anyone directly affected on September 11, 2001, but obviously many do. My observations today are in no way intended as disrespect to the 3,000 who died that day. Actually I’m troubled we didn’t honor their sacrifice by embarking on a long-term change for the better.
When I was in college, Iranians took over our embassy in Tehran and held 52 hostages for 444 days. Why? Well, mostly because our government propped up their dictator, the Shah, for years. For our efforts, we got a continuous flow of cheap oil. The Iranian people didn’t get to share much of the wealth. Iranian dissenters were tortured and killed. I remember a small group of Iranian students protesting in the rare rain near “Old Main,” the original building on the University of Arizona campus. Their efforts were peaceful, but I recall thinking them laughably futile.
Later in college, Abdul was my friend. He was a Saudi student. I didn’t really hang out with the other Saudi’s, known as “sand-niggers” to some, but for some reason Abdul and I became friends. Probably because good pot helps ease international relations… The only other Saudi I remember by name was “Frank.” His real name was Mohammed, but with his ‘fro he looked just like Zappa. I got along just fine with the non-Royal Saudi’s, and over time learned that they were not big fans of their Royal family or my government who kept them in power. “That is our oil too,” Abdul explained.
As I scanned the news in the days following 9/11, I was relieved that neither Abdul nor “Frank” was pictured, but I fully understood how most of the hijackers were Saudi.
“They hate our freedom” was trotted out by our government as they got us fired up for war. Hate our freedom? Not really. I think the populist events of the recent “Arab Spring” in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere put that theory to rest.
I find it curious that some have such a fervent opposition to “illegal” immigrants in this country picking strawberries in the sun for 14 hours a day or cleaning our toilets, but fully support our presence in many foreign countries at the end of a gun tank or predator drone. If that were the case here, I think “we the people” would be doing everything in our power to evict them. And if the center of power of that vastly stronger occupier was a “shining city on a hill,” wouldn’t we try to take a shot at it? That’s exactly what we did during our revolution against a stronger occupier.
So ten years ago today, they took their best shot and they succeeded. They achieved their goals. They drew us into two wars which has drained us of over 5,500 human lives and approximately $3.7 trillion dollars, all put on a credit card. The 3,000? Not the point. They were striking at our power and likely see the 3,000 deaths as “collateral damage,” just like the estimate of over 100,000 civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.
In the days after that day a decade ago, we were nicer to each other. We let the guy go in front of us in traffic without flipping him off, we didn’t let the little things get to us and we were much less arrogant. We were humbled. I wish we honored our fallen by keeping that higher sense of our humanity. Instead we kept the cycle of violence going and treated our populace to the reality show called “Shock and Awe.” You may have heard of it. It’s on a 10 year run. Oh, and this is no “holier than thou” statement. I was there with my popcorn. I remember thinking the explosions should have been bigger.
So today, the husbands and wives and children that lost loved ones in NY, DC and Pennsylvania don’t have them back, and thousands of Iraqi and Afghan families are similarly scarred forever. Are we better off? Are we safer? Is the world a better place for our children and grandchildren, and for those of the 9/11 dead? No. Sadly, this is why I don’t think we’ve honored our victims of senseless mass murder during this dark decade. We’ve just extracted some very expensive revenge.
My faint hope is that over time we truly learn from that day and honor the fallen by making the world a better place for theirs left behind.