I was wrong when I predicted a couple of posts ago that President Obama's Jobs Speech would grab the headlines and spare us, for 24 hours anyway, the 9/11 tenth anniversary anniversary celebration and its attendant, self indulgent outpouring of idiocy in the form of the mournful, the woeful, the 'Where we were that day' stories and the endless gushing aorta of op-ed pieces about how America has changed. As one commentator puts it, 9/11 has become a brand, encompassing all that that word implies.
This ongoing overkill, this drilling into the collective consciousness of something we should have left behind us a long time ago, is simply the furtherance of the political and social uses to which 9/11 has been put over the past decade and emphasizes the fact that America has been transformed into The Land Of The Afraid.
Tom Engelhardt does a good job of laying that all out for The Nation magazine's Tom Dispatch project, but all you have to do is walk down the street. The minute someone sees you coming, their face is buried in their cell phone, checking text messages they just got done checking when they passed the last person. Insecurity is about in the land.
Despite Americans' confusion over who if anyone uttered the words, "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither," the phrase has been quoted often enough so that part of the public discourse is an awareness of the relationship between civil liberties and the desire for security.
But despite our unending ballyhooing about freedom, despite the importance of functional civil liberties to the functioning of democracy, human nature being what it is, the way we ought to look at that relationship has always been in contention, and it is contended at two different places: in the ways the public reacts to fear, and the ways in which those in power react to that reaction.
The official reaction to 9/11, of course, has been a stream of things, like the Patriot Act, spying by the government on US citizens, wars, and torture, all of which continue under Obama, by the way. Make no mistake, these are not incidental things done for our benefit. Torture is not conducted for the sake of getting information, it is done for our sake, so that we know what our government is capable of. The rapid passage of the Patriot Act, by which civil liberties were tossed overboard wholesale, may have been an understandable, fear based reaction, but it's repeated renewal says more about how fear is manipulated as a means of social control.
A quick scan of the major news outlets front web pages reveals that the use to which 9/11 can be put is far from being exhausted. The only way President Obama can make the news this weekend is by attending 9/11 ceremonies. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, who more than anyone has used and is still using 9/11 and the fear it engendered to further political goals, gets more play on the front page of Washington Post than the president.
Those goals would be the goals of the Project For The New American Century in which conservatives like William Kristol, Donald Rumsfeld, and Cheney laid out their plans to go beyond the original Reaganite goal of transferring wealth from us to the ruling class, to, by using America's military power, extend the domination of the US ruling class to all the world. And for that to happen, of course, we, the people, and our quaint ideas about representative government, could not be allowed to get in the way.
As an aside, one that is nearly humorous but is another indication of how we have come to use our cell phones as defense mechanisms, is the example of the driver I meet in Gallup every night. We relay parcel post, and depending on when the truck he meets in Holbrook shows up to meet him, and on when that truck left Phoenix, and on when the California truck arrived in Phoenix, we meet at between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.
He is one of those people who is always running some kind of a game, trying to gain the advantage. I have to let a lot of it pass or I'd be tied up in fits all the time, and besides, our interaction, about fifteen minutes, is a miniscule part of my typically 13-hour day. Of his too, for that matter, but when we meet you can tell that he has been spending his hours of driving consumed in thinking, planning, and scheming, and as a consequence the details of our little routine -- where we meet, who backs up to whom, who opens the truck doors, who moves the pallets from truck to truck, and more important, who ends up doing more work -- are always in flux.
Sometimes I have to assert myself for the sake of my sanity, and so we can get the work done, and after that happens, the next night when he shows up he is on his cell phone the entire time, having a loud conversation, or at least his side of it is, with someone or other, at between 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning.
Even more reading...
The 3,000 and some Americans who died in the 9/11 attacks are human beings, and therefore worthy of respectful remembrance.
But to put the number 3,000 in a certain kind of context, the number of Iraqi civilians who have died since we invaded their country for no good reason is put at 1,455,490, as of today.
The number of US troops sacrificed in Iraq: 4,792
In Afghanistan: 2,710
Cost of both wars so far: $1.2 trillion
And Americans who die each year from various other causes (data from 2007, apparently the last year available):