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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Never forget.

I have my own private memories of the horrors of 9/11.

I've shared them on this blog before. Several times. No need to rehash them.

No, seriously. There is no need to rehash those images. Again. And, again. And, again.  Like some addiction that can never seem to be satisfied because it's never acknowledged.

And then, there's the rehearsal of the timeline of that day. Some folks need to rehearse and cling to every second, every event that happened every minute, every story and every image associated with what happened and then, what happened next.

And, after that. And, after that. Again and again and again.

Interestingly enough, the people who seem to have the greatest need to do this are not the people who lost anyone they knew or loved on that day 15 years ago.

Some folks in this country seem to be on a continuous loop of those images and those facts, not just today but every day. We just don't televise it every day. Except, we do, in more subtle ways.

It's like a slow IV drip which feeds the human need for revenge.

Drip: USA! Drip: USA! Drip: USA!

Almost 3,000 people (2,996) from many races, ethnicities, creeds and "walks of life," were killed in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania that day.

As of August 2013, medical authorities concluded that 1,140 people who worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attack have been diagnosed with cancer as a result of "exposure to toxins at Ground Zero".

An unofficial count is that least eleven pregnancies were abruptly terminated (miscarried or stillborn) on 9/11.

So it just stands to reason, then - Right? - that we have killed more than 300,000 of "them" - innocent men, women and children - in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Right?

Of the 775 initial prisoners suspected in the planning of the 9/11 attacks, 61 continue to be detained in a military prison known as GTMO (pronounced "gitmo"), part of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Although most of these have been released without charge, the United States government continues to classify many of these released detainees as "enemy combatants". 

God only knows how many of those prisoners were subjected to torture, like waterboarding and force feeding (well, we know 106 prisoners on a hunger strike were ordered to be force fed), deprived of sleep, forced to listen to rock music at deafening levels of sound, forced to defy their religious beliefs (to view images of naked women and touch women who they were later told were menstruating), suffered sexual abuse and torture, and other things described in a report by Amnesty International as "brutal and un-American".    

Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, tortured at Abu Ghraib
That was GTMO. You might also remember an American prison camp in Iraq called Abu Ghraib


And then, there are the more than 8,000 American soldiers who came home in body bags.

And, there are the more than 27,000 American soldiers left seriously wounded with visible, disfiguring, disabling losses of arms, legs, eyes, ears, and parts of the skull, as well as the not-so-visible emotional scars like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addiction to drugs and alcohol. And, let's not forget those women and men who were raped by their fellow soldiers.

And then there is the staggering figure of twenty - 20 - military veterans who commit suicide every day. That's one every 65 minutes, but, who's counting?

But, we killed Bin Laden, right?  The old man's bullet-ridden body is rotting somewhere out on the floor of the ocean right now, deprived of a proper religious or state funeral to honor his life and remember his deeds. 

Got him! Vengeance at last! The US nailed the bastard!


Have we gotten our revenge yet? How will we know? Will someone tell us when it's finally over? 

It seems to me that the only thing the images and stories of 9/11 are useful for these days is the political gain of those who want to keep us angry and afraid.

That there is a "them" and an "us" and "they" only mean to do us harm.  And we know that because "they" are not like "us".

That the only way we can tell "them" from "us" - despite the color of their skin or texture of their hair or the language they speak - is to develop "extreme vetting" of those immigrants whom we first kick out and then only let back in to our country if they pass an as yet unknown but decidedly "extreme" ("And, I mean EXTREME") test of loyalty and allegiance and citizenship. 

There are those who are so angry and afraid, they actually believe there ought to be "extreme vetting" even though they don't really know what that means and even though they probably wouldn't pass the test themselves. 

As long as we are angry and afraid, we can be paralyzed into believing in heroes.

That there is only one person ("I, alone") who can save us from the terror manufactured by pathetically weak men (and women) not strong enough to lead any other way.

That, despite all historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, a wall - "a great, big YUGE, beautiful wall" that we get someone else to pay for - is the way to keep us safe from our perceived enemies who take our business and bring in drugs and rape our women, even though some of them, we suppose are also good people.  (Except, of course, a certain judge who is American but of Mexican heritage).

That this super rich (we think but don't really know because we haven't yet seen his tax returns) self-proclaimed super hero "knows more than the military generals about ISIS" and actually has a "secret plan to end ISIS".

But, see? Here's the deal: He's going to fire all the existing generals the first hour in office (I guess he missed that 6th grade civics class and doesn't quite understand the separation of powers in the US government), hire his own and charge them with coming up with their own "secret plan" in 30 days.

But, no, that's not his "secret plan" which has to remain secret because - you scared, stupid little fool! - you can't talk about a secret plan because then - DUH! - it wouldn't be secret.

So, he'll just keep his secret plan hidden in his secret decoder ring. Or, wherever it is that super heroes hide things from the poor, stupid, scared, little people they're trying to save.

No, see? His Really Secret, "secret plan" is to keep his plan a secret then take some of the things the new generals came up with in 30 days - or not, unless maybe he'll like that plan even better and he'll use all of their plan - and that will be his secret plan.

People who are angry and afraid and filled with the need for revenge really believe stuff like that.

As long as we are angry and afraid, we will destroy enough brain cells to believe the unbelievable pronouncement of a certain mayor of New York City - who was most certainly present on that fateful day in September - who recently claimed that there had not been "any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States" in the eight years before President Barack Obama took office.

Even though that was almost 8 years BEFORE President Obama took office. 


Yes, we should never forget the lives of those who were killed and died that day, 15 years ago.  But, that's different from allowing the images of that day to feed anger and hatred and revenge.

That's different from allowing those images to fuel the nationalism and populism and jingoism which, (okay, I'll say it) has allowed the rise of trumpism - which is more than just a nonsensical, untrue (or, in his words, "truthful exaggeration") statement made by Donald, J. Trump - but a potent, toxic, most deadly political cocktail of celebrity, nativism, "the outsider" and populism.

Want to know what really gave rise to ISIS/ISIL? 

Want to know how we got here, in the present political climate of half-truths and outright lies, suspicion and distrust, muckraking and mudslinging, hatred, prejudice and bigotry?

Look no more than to the events that happened 15 years ago. Then, look again at the images you have seen all day today - and, in some way,  every day for the last 15 years -  which have exhorted you to remember and never forget what happened on this date.

We have - quite literally - made ourselves sick over never forgetting 9/11.

Here's what I've learned to do, 15 years later.

I've let go of the images of burning buildings and planes. I've let go of the images of dust and ashes.

I choose to see, instead, people.  Dead people. All the 2, 996 people who died on this day 15 years ago. And, 1,400 residents and first responders who died of complications from the toxins in the air that day. And the 11 pregnancies that never made it to term.

And, all the 8,000 American soldiers who came home from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags. And, all the 300,000 innocent men, women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan who lost their lives to revenge.

I remember people. Ordinary dead people who once lived ordinary lives and loved other ordinary people with ordinary hopes and dreams.

I will never forget them.

And, I will never forget the ordinary people who did extraordinary, amazing acts of kindness and generosity.

People who rose above the ashes and dust and chaos and brought food and water and clothing and boots and mopped brows and washed feet and clipped toenails and gave out hugs like the lifelines they are to the human heart and soul.

All these are the people I remember on this day. I try to remember them every day, but I remember them most this day.

They remind me of being human. And that life is too short. And that there is no time for hate.

War is an evil bird. It feeds upon anger and fear and vomits our hatred and revenge. It destroys the minds and hearts of good men and women. It lusts after the blood of the young and steals the hopes and dreams of children.

I will not let it do that. Not to me. Not to the nation I love. Not to the world God created and in which I am fortunate enough to live.

On this day, you have before you life and death.

Choose life.

As President Obama said, "Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."

There's still time left in the day.  Even if it's not now 9/11 when you read this.

Go out and do something good.  Be kind. Err on the side of generosity.

Dare to hope. Be bold enough to dream.

Build bridges, not walls.

Choose love, not hate.

Never forget. 


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm so sorry to the person who pointed out an error in my post. I thought I posted it. I must have deleted it and now I can't find it. I'm grateful that you pointed it out (and, I cut and pasted right from the article, hmmmm). I've changed it. Thank you.

Lionel Deimel said...

If 20 people are committing suicide every day, we do not have a suicide “every 65 minutes.” It is a suicide every 72 minutes (24x60/20). Not that it makes a difference, but let’s get our numbers right.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Only you, Lionel. Only you. Apparently, it does make a difference. To some people. Like you.