Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Eleven

This is a blog written by Americans, and it is the 11th of September, and so I felt like there had to be a post.

One recollection of September 11, 2001:

My heart broke that morning, once the shock of waking up to "we're under attack" wore off.  It broke for the buildings destroyed, the innocent lives snuffed out in fire and collapse, the untold damage, the fear and panic in the country.

But what stuck with me, what took the pieces of my heart and pounded them to dust, was the absolute certainty that we, as a nation, would swiftly move to take revenge, that we would take the violence and the fear visited upon us, and we would visit them upon other people a hundredfold.  It was dread; it was certainty.

At the time I didn't know we would declare not one but two preemptive wars, one of which was planned in the 90s and was simply waiting for an excuse. I didn't know that we would also sacrifice any moral high ground we once had, that we would sacrifice our own civil liberties, our own self-respect and integrity as a nation on the altar of the almighty trinity of nationalism: Fear, Violence and the Illusion of Safety.  I didn't know we would torture people, or hold people in prison with no intention of ever giving them a trial of any kind.  I didn't know we would extradite people for the express purpose of being tortured, or that we would hire mercenaries and turn a blind eye to war crimes they commit. I didn't know any of these things.

But I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the fear and violence which had been visited upon us, we would visit upon others a hundredfold.  (Not because of any extraordinary viciousness, but because we had the power, paired with the disease of empire; because no one could stop us, least of all ourselves.)

And we have done, are doing, exactly that.

***

So I grieve the many losses of that day - including the 2,996 people we counted because they died on our soil, the 2,000+ who died in Afghanistan whom we counted, the 4,700+ who died in Iraq whom we counted, the tens of thousands of American and allied injuries that we are not supposed to count or talk about, and the hundreds of thousands we have not been counted, whom we are not allowed to attempt to count.

4 comments:

Jodie said...

On the bright side, the attack on Pearl Harbor left fewer dead and did less material damage, wasn't even seen on live television, but had much more devastating consequences all around.

Not sure what that means exactly, but I think one of the things it means is that we are learning at least a little restraint.

I mean, we could have drafted several million men and women and gone over there and colonized the place.

Or glassed it over.

That's got to count for somethin, don't it?

Doug Hagler said...

@ Jodie

It's possible that we have learned restraint. Being a pessimist, though, I chalk it up to the fact that we had a huge national military to fight in the wake of Pearl Harbor. That meant not only that we could more easily tell who we were fighting, but we also knew when we had 'won' - there was a nation to surrender to us.

We also obliterated two whole countries, and even nearly a decade later, Iraq has, what, 50% unemployment? Sporadic electricity in the capital? Less material damage, maybe, but I'd say equivalent devastation in many ways. I'd say less material damage because our opponents were so completely overmatched - the same way I could take down a little kid intent on attacking me without hurting them very much - thanks to the difference in size and strength. It's a lot tougher when the person (or nation) who is attacking is more of a match, and it takes longer for one side to be ground down to surrender.

I'm not sure, though, that we can chalk it up to restraint.

Restraint would be working jointly to arrest the people involved in the attack and try them in international court or something...and certainly not invading Iraq.

Paul L said...

Like you, I was fearing the worst, and was surprised that our national response was as "limited" as it was. It could certainly have been worse.

I think I resent most the mindless macho jingoism that people keep repeating, starting with the idea that "we are at war." The better, more-moral way of proceeding would have been to treat the events September 11 as crimes; but then, of course, the nine-year-olds in the previous Administration would have had no excuse to swagger and to bully the rest of the world.

People seem to equate bullying with strength, and real strength (the kind that doesn't need to swing its weight around) with weakness. What I find particularly disturbing is the number of Christians who think this way. "Pray for your enemies" seems to be entirely lacking from their mental landscape, as though the New Testament didn't even exist.

Doug Hagler said...

For me, as a Christian, this is part of why the Gospel is so important - that God, the sovereign, demonstrates that sovereignty most decisively by becoming infinitely vulnerable, by identifying with the poor and the outcast and the helpless, and by suffering humiliation, torture and death without the slightest bit of retaliation.

This is another kind of strength entirely from way we as a country are "strong".