Reflections on September 11

I’m writing this on Sept. 8, as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedies looms large.  The media loves this.  It’s a chance to re-visit what happened, interview survivors, dig out photos, and talk about heroes.  For the rest of us, it’s a chance to remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard about the attacks, educate our children about that recent page in our history book, and attend commemorative services.

For my part, I’m doing none of the above.  I’m going to spend the day thinking.  Thinking about our newest national obsession, the “war on terror.”  I think terror may be winning.

It’s astonishing to think about what our response to these attacks has cost our county.  We have launched two wars (unfunded) in parts of the world where history would tell us we have little chance of success.  We’ve lost thousands of brave men and women and we’ve spent billions of dollars with little to show for the expenditure.  Few Americans are able to articulate just what it is that we are fighting for.

Some of us have launched a full-scale public relations battle against Islam, a religion that includes peace and justice among its tenets.  It’s been a great victory for bigotry and religious intolerance.  (What do you think would have happened if the attackers had been Presbyterians or Methodists?)

The aftermath of Sept. 11 has caused the world economy to shudder and the U. S. economy to endure a seemingly-endless recession.  It’s hard to sell a house but it’s awfully easy to lose a job.  We have more people visiting food pantries and fewer people with health insurance.

We have a burgeoning Department of Homeland Security that pretends we are safer because we have a fence separating us from Mexico, but still hasn’t figured out how to check the massive shipments of cargo that come into our ports every day.

Our political discourse has deteriorated to new lows.  Everybody is afraid of something (anthrax?  wire-tapping?  trials of Guantanamo Base prisoners on U. S. soil?  gun-toting “patriots”?)

During the past decade we have watched our civil liberties erode in the name of safety, and we have shrugged.  We have taken off our shoes in order to board airplanes, and we have pretended that makes us safer.

The late Helen Keller, in her book “Let Us Have Faith,” wrote:  “Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.  To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

I think I’ll think about this on Sept. 11.