I tried hard to avoid all the media coverage in the week or so leading up to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks. I couldn’t, because every outlet had that story, even sports networks like ESPN. But some of it was good. The radio show Marketplace had a daily feature, The Economic Legacy of 9/11, which showed exactly how much it has cost us, such as all the money that could’ve been spent on economic and social development that now goes into homeland security and anti-terrorism efforts, for one big aspect. Most other coverage would get turned off, because I just did not want to hear how politicians were going to use the anniversary to either promote continued fear or promote their other ends.
Finally on the actual day I got sucked into some of the emotional aspects, mostly as a result of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury episode featuring longtime characters BD, the (former?) gung-ho military guy, and Zonker, the hippie suntan champion. More than any other thing I saw that day, certainly more than the usually happy comics that on Sunday showed a whole family gathered around a flagpole magically appearing in the front yard, Doonesbury captured it for me.
On Sept. 11, 2011, not only were issues brought to our shores that the rest of the world had long faced already. That date was the point at which, looking back, it became obvious that we were losing our way, perhaps had been for a long time. We’ve managed to compound the damage Osama bin Laden did to us with our efforts to recover from and avenge the attacks. In the last decade, we’ve embarked on three “wars,” none of which have done anything — anything — to defeat terror. We’ve abridged noble legal principles, national and international. We’ve driven our economy into a ditch. We’re just as suspicious of “the other” as we’ve ever been, and that suspicion has been multiplied if “the other” has brown skin or a Middle Eastern name. Our politics is polarized. Our haves are sprinting away from our have-nots with an attitude Marie Antoinette might’ve found a bit crass. And the majority of Americans don’t seem to care as long as they can still watch “American Idol” and get the latest smart phones for the kids.
It’s not that I don’t care about the people who died on 9/11/01. It’s that looking at what happened in the ten years since is pretty hard to take. I know that’s a hell of a downer to end this post on, but the only other solution I can come up with is to somehow ignore all of this. Not only does that not seem good, it seems pretty hard to do when there’s so much evidence.