Let us remember 9/11. Today we remember the victims who died in New York, Washington, and in Pennsylvania. In the years immediately following 9/11 we were told that as a nation we had come together, that we were stronger for our national trials — that our democracy had triumphed over terrorism. It was, unfortunately, a short-lived lie. Today we hardly remember the world that preceded 9/11.
The American economy has been ravaged by trillions spent on wars that have never ended. Newborns on September 11th, 2001 are now eligible to vote. The Bill of Rights has been shredded by wiretaps, ethnic and racial profiling, the Patriot Act, police militarization, the end of habeus corpus, torture, kidnapping, illegal detentions, secret courts, and assassination teams that have targeted even American citizens. We have declared war on millions of people in a dozen covert wars we fight by incinerating civilians with drones. Our wars of choice have destroyed half a dozen countries and made millions of refugees flee their homes.
The world we inhabit today is a twilight dream, a fantasy land in which evolution competes with creationism, multiculturalism clashes with nativism, and freedom challenges authoritarianism. We have for so long lived in denial of American slavery and imperialism — is it any wonder we are so good at denying science and verifiable fact?
Useful lessons will likely never be drawn from 9/11. Every print and video remembrance presents the saccharine, the patriotic, the triumphal. No one wants to know why so much of the world hates us. And if we did we couldn’t be bothered for an honest answer. No, they hate us for our democracy.
Let us remember 9/11. This is a day for candlelight memorials and somber speeches. We’ll trot out patriotic stories of death and sacrifice, ask each other where we were when the Twin Towers fell, mouth prayers invoking god and first responders, vow to never let it happen again, then cloak ourselves in the righteousness of martyrdom.
Let us remember 9/11. Next year there will be another anniversary. Another year of perpetual war, of drone attacks, meddling in the affairs of other nations, the squandering of national treasure on war, the loss of even more civil liberties.
Let us remember 9/11. But let us also regard with honest, open eyes the America we have created in its wake.