The Uses Of The Terrorist Attacks Of 2001 To Justify American Barbarism

Chris Cuomo, host of the cable news network’s “New Day,” asked the Republican frontrunner point-blank if his proposal made him a “fascist.”

“Well, I totally disagree,” said Trump, apparently battling a cold. “You take a look, Chris, at what’s going on, and it is disgraceful.”

He said the backlash to his discriminatory and unconstitutional suggestion showed that too many Americans had “quickly” forgotten the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center. – Travis Gettys, “WATCH: CNN host Chris Cuomo asks Donald Trump point-blank if he is a ‘fascist'”, Raw Story, December 8, 2015

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The collapse of the World Trade Center. No one alive and aware that day will ever forget it.

The collapse of the World Trade Center. No one alive and aware that day will ever forget it.

So the latest of what I privately call “the 9/11 gambit” is Donald Trump using the terrorist attacks of 2001 to justify banning the entry of Muslims to this country – including US citizens traveling abroad – and even believing Bill Gates can shut down the Internet, calling people who would protest on free speech grounds “fools”.

You see and hear and read it a whole lot, however. The terrorist attacks fourteen years ago are invoked to excuse everything from the killing of civilians, invading Iraq for no reason, and keeping our troops in Afghanistan far longer than they should be to local acts of Islamophobia in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks. With the coincidental timing of the arrival of Syria refugees the same weekend as the Paris attacks, politicians, journalists, and ordinary citizens have been hyperventilating, screeching fear and hatred, stoking the embers of bigotry and violence that always glow just below the surface of the American psyche.

You see it, too, when people say “they don’t care” about things like human rights or the monetary cost of wars or the lives of civilians either trying to flee violence or caught in the crossfire of wars they want no part of  because . . . of 9/11. Because, obviously, Syrian farmers, Iraqi social workers, or Afghan housewives are just as responsible for what was done to the United States as the mostly Saudi terrorists who piloted those planes to destruction.

I keep wondering, though, about that final scene in Saving Private Ryan. Ryan approaches Tom Hanks’s character, who lies there dying. Hanks says, “Earn this,” meaning Ryan needs to make his life worth the sacrifice of Hanks and his squad; the message for the rest of us is honoring those sacrifices in much the same way. I think it’s fair to say that America didn’t really honor the dead of World War II very well, sinking in to an orgy of routinized consumerism and conformity that created not only the backlash of the anti-Vietnam War movement, but its follow up with the election of Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes, and Clinton for President. Not only did “the Greatest Generation” screw up; they screwed up their kids so bad we’re still cleaning up those messes.

And here we are, yet again, needing to answer the question of whether we really are honoring the dead, not only of that horrible day but in our endless wars that have followed in its wake. Do we honor the fallen by stripping the Constitution of any meaning? Do we honor the dead by hating people whose only crime is being Muslim, acting precisely like the terrorists who didn’t care about us because we just happen to be American? Do we honor the dead by creating more terrorists through indiscriminate bombing? Are we earning the sacrifices made for us by our wives and husbands and sons and daughters when we spread fear and lies?

The night before Thanksgiving, we had some friends over for dinner. They have a grandson who is a couple years older than Moriah. We all agreed that generation – our children who are just now becoming young adults – is the best group of people. There is no guile about them, little bigotry of any kind, a thirst for real justice and equality and social and personal peace that even we baby boomers and post baby boomers have desired yet failed to deliver time and again. What kind of America are we leaving them, filled with hatred and fear, willing to destroy and defame and defile because of the basic reality of human difference?

The dead in lower Manhattan and the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania deserve better than what we keep doing. We’re like that old patient in the doctor’s joke who says, “It hurts when I do this.” The doctor’s advice is clear and simple: “Stop doing that.” We are only hurting ourselves with the mass panic induced by people who are only seeking to benefit themselves from our irrational fears. We are only leaving even more of a mess for our kids to clean up after we’re gone. And, no, the terrorist attacks, as horrific and heart-breaking as they were, are no excuse to become a nation willing to be terrorists on a grand scale.

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