Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11, ten years after

I worked across the street from the World Trade Center. I was there on 9/11. I have written of my experiences previously, so there's no need to do it again.

There are recent developments I could write about, such as Mayor Bloomberg's call to stop using the term "ground zero" for the World Trade Center (which I applaud), to a movement to put the twin towers on New York license plates (to which I object), but they are relatively trivial. I prefer to write about something much more important.

My feelings today are a mixture of resignation and hope. Resignation that we continue to let the media and politicians exploit the attacks for their own purposes. Hope that perhaps, with the opening of the memorial, we will be able to de-emphasize the mourning of the families of the victims, and view the events of 9/11 in a less-emotional perspective.

Before the attacks, most Americans felt safe, at least from foreign attack. On 9/11, their beliefs were shattered. They wanted to feel safe again. In less than a day, Mayor Giuliani's control-freak management style went from laughing stock to just-what-the-doctor-ordered. He went from lame-duck mayor, four months from political oblivion, to a national figure with presidential potential. His performance has become legend--literally. I have heard a Circle Line tour guide tell people that Giuliani escaped from the city's emergency control center in 7 World Trade only moments before it fell. In truth, he never set foot in the ridiculously-located place any time that day, and the entire building was evacuated long before it collapsed.

Lamentable as it was, Giuliani's political resurrection was far from the worst effect of the attack. It enabled the federal government, via the Patriot Act, to greatly undermine our privacy. Our phone calls, especially international ones, are under electronic surveillance. So are our e-mails. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the government's expanded powers. Yet most Americans seem quite content to give up their freedom from government spying, in exchange for feeling safer.

Now, ten years later, perhaps the nation can move beyond the mourning by the families of the lost. Perhaps now we can start to objectively analyze the huge loss of privacy that Americans have suffered in exchange for the hope of increased safety. Perhaps now we can come to the realization that the terrorists win when they maneuver us into giving up our freedoms.

1 comment:

Linda Marie Daniels said...

Thanks for your post.

The events on 9/11 were so world changing that it was inevitable that myths and legends emerged as a way of trying to explain what happened and our reactions. The narrative about that day and what came after is still emerging and probably will for some time.

I share your concern for the way that day has been appropriated by those who would reduce our privacy and freedom in the name of security.