Yes, this is the obligatory 9/11 post. Skip it if you want to.
“Never forget.” I saw this on more than a few T-shirts this weekend. Fucking T-shirts — worn by people who had never been to the places that were attacked, probably never would have, and more than likely viewed those places with a faint disapproving suspicion before the attacks. T-shirts, like those commemorating your attendance at the latest Toby Keith concert tour, or declaring your admiration for the philosophy of “Git-R-Done.” T-shirts. Tragedy Souvenirs.
I remember. I remember the burning smell that lingered for more than a week. I remember the coldly comforting sound of the high roaring whine of fighter jets, wheeling in a combat air patrol over my house. I remember the first time I saw a commercial airliner in the sky again, and the fear response — adrenaline, cold sweat and trip-hammer heartbeat — that resulted. I remember the people I knew who died.
I remember, for a moment, that things actually changed. We actually cared about what happened to eachother. The media stopped feeding us an endless diet of JonBenet, Celebrity breakups, shark attacks and missing blonde girls, and actually tried to keep us informed. Our leaders, for a moment, seemed to have the best interests of the country in mind.
Of course, all of that went away. The media went back to Bread & Circuses. Folks who weren’t involved with 9/11 started using it as a bludgeon, to question the patriotism of others…including, outrageously, people who were involved and lost loved ones. If you don’t agree with the neo-conservative agenda, you’re “living in a pre-9/11 world.” That little American flag worn on the lapel has gone from a sign of solidarity as a nation to a signal of the wearer being a “real American”…and hence better than you.
They say that everything changed on 9/11. This is true. Unfortunately, the changes for the better went away after a while. The only change we’ve been left with his how our country has changed over the past five years, into a country that launches pre-emptive wars, imprisons people without charges, engages in torture, ignores the plight of its own citizens, and questions the loyalty of anyone who disagrees with the government.
Those changes may never be undone.
Never forget what we once were.