With each passing year, since that moment on September 11th, 2001, it has become harder and harder for me to participate in any official commemoration of this day. This year once again I find myself repulsed by the ‘festivities’ and ‘fanfare’ that surrounds this event, and the righteousness of the words coming out of the mouths of politicians, pundits, celebrities and citizens. The reasons for my reluctance should be quite obvious to perhaps even the most determinedly nationalist, and the most foolishly patriotic. Maybe not.
With each passing month since that fateful day in September 2001, we as a nation, as a people, a republic and an imperial power have carried out more violence, inflicted more injustice, behaved more criminally, subjected more inhumanity and excused more unconstitutionality than anything I can remember. It is near impossible for me to turn my eyes away from the fact that this day has become an excuse for murder, torture, repression, and violence, both within the borders of America and more obviously outside of it. It is near impossible for me to ignore the fact that we have indulged in indulgent wars, killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions, incarcerated in violation of our own laws and principals, thousands in our gulags and torture centers spread out across the world, collaborated with the most heinous of dictatorships to satiate our paranoia, torn to shred our most fundamental of civic liberties, perpetuated a draconian and eviscerating surveillance machinery through the poorly named Patriot Act, bankrupted ourselves in the pursuit of war and the indifference to our citizens, and today remain a limb military power with an emasculated citizenry mired in debt, unemployment and confusion.
This day of September 11th, with all its official ceremonies, its pious but hypocritical speeches, its theatrics and drama offered on prime-time television, cannot erase the realities that I see before me. I cannot help but see that in fact our ‘values’ were destroyed on that day in 2001, but that we did that to ourselves. I cannot help but think that we lost every single war we set out to fight, and in the process destroyed the very ideals and institutions we so believed in, while leaving entire stretches of this world in ruins, and entire lives of innocents in devastation. The lives of a few thousand Americans have been used to justify genocidal wars, endless military expenditure, the shredding of all respect and adherence to international law, the perpetuation of a surveillance state that is spending more time invading American rights than actually understanding the roots of violence against American power and presence.
September 11th, 2011 is today nothing more than a cheap excuse to silence dissent, ignore questions, and to perpetuate the righteousness and sense of moral superiority that justifies acts of mindless aggression and conquest. It is the two minutes of hate that George Orwell so brilliantly spoke about:
We have become a exaggerated reflection of the very paranoia, prejudice, ignorance and violence that informed the distorted minds of the eleven men who carried out the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Today we have more in common with their shallow, limited and ignorant view of the world – a world of historical, civilizational, political and intellectual simplicities, than we are willing to admit. Today we are more divorced from the ‘values’ we claim we are fighting for than ever before. We have been lobotomized by the industry of fear, rendered catatonic by purveyors of hate, and reduced to a helplessness and impoverishment by a state beholden to a security, military and profiteering complex that is isolated from the citizens and unconcerned about their welfare. Perhaps worse, rather than imagining and producing a world that rejected the intent and ideas behind the attacks, we have chosen to be seduced by their vehement foolishness, and made them our own.
Garlanding our criminals with ‘respectability’ and ‘civility’, we have become the enemy and are defeating ourselves.
On this day in 2011, I will not remember that day in 2001 they way the official producers of its remembrance want me to. I continue to resist it in my own impotent and individual way. I will not allow them to take the meaning of this day away from my own intellect and my own understanding of it. For any who may be interested in doing the same with me, here is a small, limited reading list to help us remember;
- Omitted Facts From The 9/11 Commemoration by Glenn Greenwald
- Endless War And The Culture Of Unrestrained Power by Glenn Greenwald
- A Prime Aim Of The Growing Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
- Prepositional Phrases by Steve Marlowe
- Tear Down The Freedom Tower by Tom Engelhardt
- A Decade After 9/11: We Are What We Loath by Chris Hedges
- After 9/11: Our Own Low, Dishonest Decade by Pankaj Mishra
This is merely a small list, but I put it here to simply reveal some truths that will not be on offer on prime time television on this day of September 11th, 2011. That death is being used to perpetuate death, that sorrow is being contorted to justify injustice, that acts of violence are being answered by even worse violence, that victim-hood is being manipulated to shut out thought, are the aims of this day. We would do well to resist this. We would do well to speak out against America’s wars, against the industry of fear, against the exploitation of our sorrows to justify murder, criminality and injustice. That would be the most honorable, the most meaning commemoration of this day, and its victims.
In the mean time, outside the window of my small hotel in Pune, India, I watch with joy the dancers, singers and devotees accompanying the dozens of floats carrying Ganesha to the waters as millions celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. India, like many other nations around the world, knows it fair share of terrorism, sectarian violence and acts of hate. But somehow, other than in the tiresome newspapers, and magazines writings of professional pundits, she never seems to loose sight of life’s inherent humanity and beauty. It seems that we Americans have forgotten that lesson, surrendered as we have to fear and a pursuit of security of liberty, ignorance over imagination and bellicosity over beauty. On this September 11th, I rather go dancing with the Indians and believe in the shared, human possibility of life – and all that makes it magnificent, as an act of resistance to those who wish to reduce it to measures of difference and acts of conquest.