Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years

HH is only five, or already five depending on how you look at it. He arrived two years after that morning in 2001.

When the doctor told us his due date was September 11th neither of us said a word, we just looked at each other and fiddled with our hands in our laps. We lived in lower Manhattan then, saw it all with our naked eyes, smelled it, tasted it, lived it and no doubt have some of it buried deep inside.

A great deal has happened in the last seven years; the war is still raging, the war that feels more and more like the permanent war of “1984” and our country, what a beating it has taken, and is taking and seems destined to go on taking. The liars are in charge and the desperate deceived have forgotten how to tell truth from fiction and lost the will to even try. They cheer and chant and wave flags and have learned to hate those who challenge their beliefs rather than respect the competition of ideas.

I don’t recall a time in my life when I was more disheartened at the likely choice of the majority. The re-election of Richard Nixon was a low-point and yet even then I didn’t have the feeling that his being in office actually jeopardized the very existence of the nation. Things are different now. We live in a far more dangerous world, an angrier world and a more complex world. America has always been a beacon of hope and promise but the current administration has transformed that beacon into a target and today we find ourselves one of the least trusted nations on the planet.

I actually despair at the idea of Senator McCain ascending to the Presidency. I don’t doubt that he believes he will do what is best for the country. I don’t believe he would intentionally put the nation at risk, but I am certain he will do just that. President Bush has poisoned our democracy. Through eight years of chipping away at the fundamental principles of our commonweal, he has left the nation divided, angry and fearful in mind and spirit and he has both hardened the resolve of our enemies and dramatically increased their ranks.

McCain will almost certainly involve America in another war, either through provoking it by bellicose posturing of the type he is practicing today with respect to Georgia and Iran, or through a knee-jerk response to a provocation that is designed to elicit just such a response. 9/11 was all about dragging us into a ground war in the Middle East and the monsters who planned and executed those attacks have been successful beyond their dreams. Can you imagine how quickly the situation could deteriorate if McCain is the man making decisions about how to respond to the next one? It is a very short step from the battlefields on which we are now engaged, to a war that engulfs the entire planet.

I believe the situation is that grave, the stakes that high, and the outcome of this election that important. But the thing that bothers me the most is that the country is divided into bunkers of hard right and hard left. It’s no accident that “country first” was the slogan of the Republican Convention. It’s no secret that we are a divided nation and that those divisions have crusted over into chasms during the last eight years. Our ideological blinders are firmly in place, fellow citizens who hold different beliefs are now enemies and the spin-doctors of the respective parties are engaged in campaigns of half-truths, outright misrepresentation and desperate fluff. The country is dancing in the darkness toward its demise. We are in the deep shit, and if I was Howard Dean I would be on the phone day and night to every person I knew of honor or merit or distinction, pleading with them to get out into the streets to educate, mobilize and energize the electorate. This may be the last chance we have to change our nation’s course before that course is chosen for us.

On this, the seventh anniversary of that morning in September, we should all try to remember what life was like before the terror. Ours was not a perfect nation on September 10th 2001 but it was a better one.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

All week a feeling has been rising inside of me, in anticipation of this day. Right now it's in my throat and is stuck between a cry of sadness, anguish and rage at where the USA is going.

I'll never forget this day seven years ago. I was on holiday with my husband and mother-in-law in Mallorca. We came back from beautiful day trip, and as we came into the hotel, a TV in the lobby was turned on to CNN. We saw planes flying into the World Trade Center and thought we were watching a movie. It didn't come together at once what had happened. Only that it was unthinkable. As I realized that this was something that just happened, I started getting into panic mode. My dad was supposed to be in New York around that time, I didn't know exactly when because he travels so much and I didn't always pay much attention to dates. (I do now) I watched in shock and in that minute, I knew to my core that I was an American. That sounds so banal, but all my life my parents have told me I'm not patriotic enough because I would criticize the government. I intellectually knew what they said wasn't true, but when I saw the towers sink down into their footprint, I knew in my BONES it wasn't true. To make a long story short, I called my mom from Mallorca, and she told me dad had been in Tower 1, but he got out in time. This was his first time in the city. I stayed awake and cried the rest of the night.

The next day, I scrapped our planned all-day outing. I wasn't up to it and it didn't seem fitting anyway. We did take a short trip to a neighboring village, and there we went into a gallery showing some ceramics. We all were speaking German as we entered, but the artist, in an English accent, asked if we spoke English. I answered that I was an American. He looked at me and said, "Your country really showed itself yesterday." I was waiting for some smart, cynical remark to follow, but he said the opposite. He was impressed at how well everyone behaved and helped each other. Well that did it. I fell apart again, and haltingly told him that my dad had been in one of those towers. Then it was his turn to be stunned. I told him all the details as I knew them and he couldn't believe it. We looked around at his art and the whole time he kept looking at me. Then he wrapped something up and gave it to me husband for me. I unwrapped it and it was a small wall piece, a face which I think looks like Jesus. I was overcome by his kindness and burst out yet again in tears. Fearing he offended me, he kept saying he was sorry. I kept trying to say I was overwhelmed by his kindness. Then he put out his arms and said, "Come here love." Two strangers, we hugged each other like we never wanted to let go. My mother-in-law, not understanding anything we had said, couldn't believe it.

To Geoff wherever you are now: I wonder if you're thinking about me today as I am of you. In a time of utter darkness, you stepped in and showed me there is still humanity. Thank you.


4:24 PM  
Blogger Diane Mandy said...

Oh how I agree!

11:03 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

I was teaching here in NYC on 9/11. Even though I voted for Gore in 2000, I decided to vote for Bush in 2004 because he had the guts to go to the UN and put them on notice and to remove Saddam Hussein. Since then, we have not had any attacks here on American soil and we've been rounding up terrorists around the world. Bush, in my opinion, has done exactly what a commander-in-chief should do.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

I happened to be in Connecticut on 9/11. I visited friends in Brooklyn not long afterward. One told me that he was standing on the balcony of his Cobble Hill apartment when snippets of paper and ash, blown across from Manhattan, rained down on him. Then he realized where at least part of the ash might be coming from....

Too horrible for words.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Snooker said...

I agree completely. The world is at a turning point and the next American administration will be instrumental in deciding what that world will look like for not only Americans, but the western world.

On top of that lovely thought I keep thinking about the sinking American economy and remembering that McCain has NO idea about financial matters.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous NYCtoNewHampshire said...

Jeffrey, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

Would you have the same opinion if the wars we are fighting were also fought on our soil? We bomb them, they bomb us, we bomb them, they bomb us?

12:29 AM  
Anonymous ian in hamburg said...

Richard, you write, "The liars are in charge and the desperate deceived have forgotten how to tell truth from fiction..."

The liars are never in charge unless those lied to give them permission. When you - and all Americans - see through the lies, give them the boot.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. I know I'm straying from my normal topics here but I hope you'll bear with me.

11:52 AM  

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