Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget

Never forget.

The mantra of the day.

I've seen videos of the collapsing Towers all over Facebook today. As such, I've tried my best to avoid it. Some people have no fucking tact.

We are only 14 years removed from the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and yet every year, we treat the day as if there is a risk of us Americans forgetting what happened.

And yet, it's like we already forgot.

More to the point, we never really knew in the first place.

We talk about remembering the people who died 14 years ago. Remember them why? Certainly, many people had relatives and friends who were among the 2,996 victims of the day, and they deserve to be remembered as individuals, for they were, after all, real people. But for the rest of us, why? Are we just supposed to remember the de-humanizing statistics? Is that something worth remembering?

From what I can gather, we're all supposed to remember that a bunch of bad shit happened. And, well, it did. People died; that's always bad. But there's never any deeper thinking than that. There never was in the first place. We as a country have still learned nothing of value from the September 11th attacks. A bunch of people learned to hate brown-skinned Muslims more. Fucking spectacular, because the best solution to extremism is always more extremism.

As you can probably gather, I think there are some real lessons to be learned here, almost none of which will actually be talked about today, of all days.

Lesson #1: American foreign policy is an absolute failure at actually protecting the United States and its citizens.

Why did the attacks even happen in the first place? I know this was one of the first questions on everybody's minds after thoughts of their loved ones. That evening, President George W. Bush went on television and offered the nation a kind, reassuring message. He told us then, and continued to do so through his presidency, and probably well after, that we were attacked by a group of people who hated us because of our freedoms. This was bullshit then, and it is bullshit today. Hell, bin Laden himself even scoffed at that idea in one of his infamous tapes released in 2004.

We were attacked because of the disastrous foreign policy decisions made throughout the history of the United States regarding the region of south-western Asia and northern Africa known as the Middle East. We arbitrarily split the land up as we saw fit after the First World War, we confiscated the land known today as the country of Israel, from the Palestinian people who already lived there, and have continued to support it unconditionally since its inception, despite war crimes and atrocities committed by the Israeli armed forces. (I should note that the present Obama administration has been one of the best at telling Israel to go fuck itself, which is rather sad.) This is not to say, of course, that we must unilaterally condemn the actions of Israel while ignoring those of its neighbors -- there have been civilian casualties on all sides of Israel's conflicts -- but you'd think that with the influence we're supposed to have over Israel that we'd be able to do a better job of keeping their shit in check.

Israel is not the end, of course. Post-Second World War, we treated the Middle East as a Cold War playground, and a region to be exploited by our own imperialist and corporation-backed goals. We overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran, which only led to the current vehemently anti-American Ayatollah taking supreme power. That was 100% our fault. We propped up the dictatorships in countries like Iraq (gee, wonder how that one turned out) and Egypt (also sounds familiar...) and continue to support the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia. Why? It's all about the money, and the money comes from natural resources, specifically petroleum. It's how we've operated since even before the beginning of the 20th century, blown to even greater proportions in the Cold War under the guise of fighting the spread of communism. Today is no different, except that we use the excuses of terrorism and drugs.

Do you doubt me? Well of course you don't have to take my word for it. Check out what bin Laden said himself just a month after the attacks.

Lesson #2: Americans are stupid enough to give up freedom and privacy for the illusion of feeling secure.

Remember that Ed Snowden guy? Well, yeah, you probably don't because there's never been a #NeverForget for Snowden, so how are we supposed to remember if the entirety of the Internet and the media isn't telling us to do so. I at least hope you're aware, however, of the insane levels of unwarranted privacy violation and spying being conducted by agencies of our own government against us. If you do need a reminder, here's his interview with John Oliver. All of that is ultimately the result of the policies we enacted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. And even still, once again, we have done nothing about this. Some of us were angry to begin with, but only some of those were angry at the government. Everyone else decried Snowden as a horrible traitor who belonged on death row or in solitary confinement or some other shit. But we still never owned up to our own complacency. The PATRIOT Act is still out there. Not all of its provisions are still active, but entirely too many remain so.

Since the attacks of September 11th, we as a country have become more scared of a single event 14 years ago that killed 3,000 people than we are of an event that kills ten times that many EVERY YEAR. That event, of course, is getting into a car. We have become more scared of people who aren't "like us" (criteria overwhelmingly applied by white Christians to not-white Muslims). And just because of that fear, we have given up some of the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our oh-so-sacred Constitution (though no one really seems to give a shit about that unless you're talking about the second amendment) and overall legal system. As a result of the policies we complacently allowed our government to enact, we have become less American, at least in comparison to our supposed values.

Lesson #3: We are very good at paying lip service to things we don't actually give a shit about.

I have two groups of victims in mind here. First, is the rescue workers. These are the people that everyone for months and years, and up to this very day, celebrate as the heroes of the day. And they fully deserve that praise. Those people who participated in rescue operations deserve every single ounce of respect and gratitude we as a nation can muster. Which is why we basically ignored the health problems that resulted in so many of these workers from the inhaled smoke and dust at Ground Zero. Yeah, that's right. That article is from fucking 2014. This is still a problem that we did not adequately deal with from the beginning. If you care so much about the heroes of 9/11/2001, maybe you should care a little bit more about their physical (and psychological, for that matter!) well-being.

The second group of victims are American soldiers. You can hardly drive 5 miles on a major highway without seeing a "Support Our Troops" bumper sticker. That all sounds well and good. But if you actually gave a shit, maybe you'd care more about physical and psychological aid for our soldiers upon their return home. Maybe you wouldn't want them going off to die in meaningless, utterly preventable wars in the first place? Nah, that takes too much actual empathy. Easier to slap a bumper sticker on your truck and decry anyone who thinks even mildly differently than you do as unpatriotic.

I don't want this to be too American-centric, because the civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan have had an even rougher time of it, and have suffered thousands of times as many deaths as a result of our wars. But how many Americans actually care about them? Certainly not enough. They're just statistics. Worse still, they're just a bunch of Muslims. We are almost psychologically incapable of seeing the civilians we have murdered as actual human fucking beings. We hardly even pay them lip service in pretending to care.

So when I see people mindlessly sharing videos of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, the towers themselves collapsing, and hashtagging everything with #NeverForget, I have to wonder, what the fuck are you actually trying not to forget? Because I guarantee that the lessons that the majority of Americans have taken away from the past 14 years are not the ones that will contribute to a safer and more tolerant United States of America.

Oh, also, specifically to those of you who share those videos. Fuck you. You are insensitive pieces of shit, and I have lost a lot of respect for you.

If you want to share a picture of the Twin Towers, use one like this, where you see them as they were, as they once stood, unassociated with the deaths of 2,606 people.
Image source:

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