Learning from the past on 9/11

Three years ago, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I shared my 9/11 story.  I wasn’t in New York or DC on that day, nor did I know anyone that was killed, but 9/11 is very personal for me nonetheless.  However, on this anniversary my mind is not focused on the events of that day, but rather what has been done since that day that is in some way related to the attacks.
We’re admonished to “Never Forget”.  Like most bumper sticker slogans, I think there is some wisdom there, but you have to get beyond the initial emotional (conditioned) response and think more deeply about what is worth remembering and also examine what we are doing based on what we remember.
I try to never forget that 13 years ago today, 2,977 people woke up with no idea they would never see the sun set ever again.  Based on that remembrance, I try to make sure to get as much as I can out of each day without pushing too hard – what’s the point of living if you can’t enjoy it?  This sort of remembrance builds up.
But I see and hear far too many that try to never forget the fear of terrorism they felt that day and anger at the religion shared by the 19 terrorists and those that supported them. Based on this fear and anger we’ve done some things and had some things done in our name that have diminished us, individually, as Americans, as “the West” and as human beings.
Going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq (twice three times as of last night) and committing acts of war (i.e. droning people to death) in many other countries in the Middle East is at the top of this list.  Thirteen years into it, we have to ask ourselves has the human cost of these wars been worth it – have we achieved what we set out to do?  There is no clear sign that these wars have given us any less to fear from terrorism – in fact they may have created even more of a terrorist threat by our actions.
The anger and fear that drove these wars have resulted in all sorts of other, secondary negative actions:

  • we’ve increased our debt to levels nearly beyond our ability to pay
  • we’ve collectivized (or stereotyped) and entire class of people based on their religion.  (side note: what’s odd to me about this is that the people that are most apt to call our current administration “collectivists” have no problem doing them same thing to Muslims…or Mexicans.  We have to recognize and avoid collectivism in all its forms).
  • we’ve created the surplus of military equipment that is fueling the police arms race we saw demonstrated in Ferguson (coming to a city near you)
  • we’ve allowed government agencies to violate our basic human rights as they construct a surveillance and security state that watches our every move.
  • we’ve condoned torture, which not only dehumanizes those that do it, but also creates a precedent for those that order it to be done – that they are “above the law”
  • we’ve allowed new supply channels to be opened for heroin, which in turn feeds additional terrorism (additional funds) and police militarization (additional justification).

I do believe its true that those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it, so I am not arguing for throwing the history and events on 9/11 down the memory hole.  Rather, I think its time we pack up the fear and anger of that day, because I also believe its equally true that those that don’t take the time to learn from the past are also equally doomed to repeat it.






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