Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Funny Story About 9 and 11

Hey! This is a no smoking city!
Happy Terror Day, everybody! Now that we've hit the ten-year mark, I'd say it's about time we started commercializing this bad boy. Wouldn't you agree? This is America, there's MONEY TO BE MADE! We can turn this tragedy into treasure - and failing that, cold hard cash - or my name isn't Otis Bunkport Jr.! Which it isn't, mind you. But it might be someday, depending on the degree of violence with which people react to my completely tasteful picture caption over there.

You see it? Are you laughing? You're not laughing. Why aren't you laughing?

Let's be honest. It's the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Many people are going to be sentimental and weepy. Others are going to be distasteful and balance that out with some appropriately inappropriate jokes. And others yet are going to make everybody uncomfortable by being angry. Very angry. Blindingly, seethingly, I-spit-fire-and-you-will-be-incinerated angry. And no, not necessarily at nebulous foreign forces perceived to be eternal enemies of 'our freedom,' or 'threats from within,' entailing non-white, non-Christian, non-conservative persons within the United States. 'Are Country' nonsense. Rage that will set your house on fire and possibly neuter your dog. Painlessly, mind you. You should have had that done already, anyway. What are you? Some kind of irresponsible dog owner?

Guess what kind of content is in this post below! You've been warned.

September 11th, 2001. The day a lot of terrible things began. People love to say it was the day we 'lost our innocence,' as though we hadn't done that plenty of times before. As the proud, hubristic world power, we've gotten very good at turning a blind eye to the realities of our actions and relations with the rest of the world over the decades. Of course, now we're no longer the world power, and as a world power, we're only slipping lower, having been surpassed by much of the rest of the first world in most manners that matter - standards of living being one of the big ones - in recent decades. And with China rising, we continue to sink.

Following the terrorist attacks in 2001, we responded to unconscionable, savage butchery with butchery in kind. At the receiving end of our reprisals have been countless victims who far outnumber those who attacked us. Decades of US foreign policy played a role in influencing and even outright training those few who declared a more complicated form of war on the United States. But as those involves - and those victimized - live on the other side of the world, we Americans are blissfully out of step and out of tune with the realities of our much-celebrated military ventures. Our 'heroics' abroad. And in that willful, comfortable ignorance, none of our hands are clean. None of us are innocents.

Whatever moral high ground we could once claim, we sprinted to demolish. We became what we fought in the name of defeating. With more money and better organization. Not that that stopped us from slaughtering an incredible number of civilians and laboring to cover up as many cases of that as we could, as WikiLeaks has helped to reveal.

War is horrible and ugly, and here in America, we love to whitewash and romanticize it. Ever since our celebrated heroics in World War II - glossing over all the atrocities we also committed, because hey, fuck the inhuman monsters in Dresden and the Japanese 'civilians' we firebombed and dropped atom bombs on, am I right? - we've been hungry to prove our own perceived glory to the rest of the world time and time again through unnecessary war after unnecessary war. Even now, there are people proudly ignorant to what we were doing in Vietnam and insist that we 'could have won,' as though slaughtering even more farmers really would have meant something. Our hands as a nation are not merely stained, but despite our always having a staunch anti-war movement, there are many more who possess an outright thirst for blood. Whether fueled by our horrific war profiteering machine, or an unhealthy sense of nationalism whereby one feels compelled to prove America's 'superiority' through the conquest and destruction of 'enemies.' The kind of dangerous thinking that should not exist in a civilized society.

We're so bizarrely detached from the reality of what we're doing and the atrocities we commit that we even can't get enough of video games largely about distortions of our current, seemingly endless military ventures in the Middle East. People just pop onto Xbox Live to play some Call of Duty and shoot at each other and further dehumanized caricatures of the 'evil brown people who don't look like us or speak our language' that we've come to regard our 'enemies' as. And sometimes you'll even have the good fortune of running into small children, whose parents have done such a fine job as to have them yelling "Faggot!" at strangers online while trying to murder them. And it's well known at this point that these games are even very popular among our soldiers as a way to pass the time and have fun when off-duty during their deployments.

If that isn't disturbingly meta enough for you, an official US military first-person shooter, America's Army, exists completely for free online as an intended recruitment tool. Because if you love running around in pretend uniform and shooting guns in a game on the internet, you'll love getting trained not to think so much for yourself, getting deployed, and possibly ending up in the shit and scarred for life so you can come back home and enjoy the crushing poverty with the rest of us. Don't worry, you're totally a hero!

Domestically, we've been witnessing a swing to the extreme political right here in the US for decades now. By today's inflammatory rhetoric, you'd think there was some kind of 'radical' left threatening to shiv Uncle Sam, burn the patriots, and fuck the apple pie. That our two-party political system functioned as some sort of pendulum on a clock, swinging back and forth between extremes of left and right, and that the left was somehow threatening to break the whole clockwork. In reality, there is no representation for the left or the center in the US anymore. No actual, quantifiable political power. No ability to call for real moderation, no ability to affect change, no ability to make the kinds of changes necessary for us to reckon with the challenges of the future. We're trapped between the extreme right party - which moves further to the right by the year, today even making the Bush administration look moderate by comparison - and a center right party being inexorably pulled further to the extreme right by the other party.

The spineless Democrats, and the authoritarian Republicans. The former occasionally concerned with the interests of the people, and the latter shameless about their lies, detachment from reality, and sole loyalties to the wealthy and corporations, putting them routinely at odds with the interests of the American people. Many Americans continue to regard themselves and vote as though they were no more than lapsed billionaires. Over the past several decades, concepts like welfare have been successfully made into dirty words. And the rest of us are just too apathetic to stand up and take a real stand against the rising tide of right-wing extremism threatening to engulf and strangle us. The 2010 election was evidence of that. The people as a whole stayed home, while those who proudly stand for enabling our nation's worst and most dangerous - the so-called 'Tea Party,' worthy of no moniker more respectful than Teabaggers - came out to vote in numbers enough to break our already dangerously gridlocked congress further.

 A recent example of the sort of people we've elected in this swing to the right? Since the further consolidation of Republican power after their retaking the House of Representatives last year, we've seen the likes of the power-hungry Eric Cantor holding disaster victims hostage in the wake of Hurricane Irene, insisting that we couldn't provide relief in the wake of the damage done - catastrophic in places - unless we cut spending even further. Repeating the Republican party and Teabaggers' present ongoing mantra that we can somehow use spending cuts to get back to financial and economic prosperity, but should never, ever even consider the sane, progressive taxation of the wealthy. Let alone actual regulation, after years of deregulation devastated us. Also, we should apparently more or less consider the likes of multibillionaire Warren Buffett a commie traitor for arguing that we need to start taxing the wealthy again. We have so much to be proud of.

And in watching the current Republican candidates fight it out for their party's nomination to run against Obama next year, we've had the pleasure of seeing them proudly reject science - especially climate science, as catastrophe looms much nearer than we realize on the horizon - boast of the size of their families, reject the entire social safety net as no more than a 'Ponzi scheme,' and take bold stances including hating cancer. Obama's ratings are terrible at the moment, and his administration's efforts to serve the people have been hobbled pretty much since day one as the Republicans joined in lockstep to block their efforts to accomplish anything, even if it meant standing against the people's best interests on a routine basis. Should one of the usual field of incompetents get the nomination and somehow manage to oust Obama - despite the Republicans being at the very center of Obama's disappointments, in addition to Obama's eagerness to compromise with and appease a party set on destroying him, and his administration's general conservative leanings - let alone the dangerous Rick Perry, it's not really hyperbolic at this point to say that we're pretty well finished as a nation. We haven't even begun to recover from the damage inflicted by the Bush administration, and the Republican party has largely become an entrenched cancer on the nation. One that we cannot hope to recover from unless we excise the tumor before it's too late. Much of the Bush administration damage - particularly to our economy and job market - is increasingly appearing to be irreversible. And unless we - and not just America, but the whole world - begin to react more dramatically to climate change very soon, we're simply going to bring about our own preventable extinction. We're already heading well into past-the-point-of-no-return territory. We aren't even able to acknowledge the problem as a whole.

I have seen insisted frequently on the local editorials page - and in online comments as well - that Obama is supposed to take ownership of everything the Bush administration and Republicans brought down upon this nation. Specifically, that because Obama couldn't fix all of these problems in no time - especially facing the constant resistance he has since his election - everything Bush and the Republicans caused is now his fault, and we're not to look back at the root cause of these problems, let alone the now-entrenched fatal flaws in our political system that prevent us from finding actual solutions.

We also now know that after all our bold, heroic support of the Libyan rebels, we spent considerably more time, money, and effort backing up Muammar Gaddafi, and even tortured a man who went on to become one of the rebel leaders in charge when they finally drove Gaddafi out of Tripoli and removed him out of power. The overwhelming response to that story on the Yahoo News comments when I first read about this? Declarations that if we tortured (or 'renditioned') him, that he must have been a terrorist all along! This is America. We have so very much to be proud of.

The trend of a swing toward right-wing politics in response to growing Islamophobia in recent years is only becoming increasingly evident in many parts of Europe as well. The actions of an extreme few have largely led to political gains for those who should not be empowered in response. And even in Canada, poor Canada, they've been dealing with Stephen Harper for years now, and only just lost Jack Layton mere days ago.

It shouldn't have to be said, but it's okay for us to not be paranoid about terrorism, and cool to not hate Muslims. Crazy as it may sound? They're just as sick of this as we are, and they're just human beings like the rest of us. We'd all benefit as a society - and as individuals - if we'd stop trying to make others of each other and actually take the time to realize that people are far more alike than you know. The less alien you make other people in your head - regardless of language, religion, appearance, and so on - the more you'll realize the less you actually have to fear.

When we use fear as an excuse to oppress ourselves and each other, as they say, the terrorists have won. If we can't be courageous enough to stand up to the worse elements in our society that have reared their ugly heads and taken power time and time again in the past decade and only continue to consolidate it, we have no future. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by the wealthy, and to be dehumanized and diminished at every turn by corporations focused solely on lining executives' pockets while our standards of living collapse, we have failed. We don't get second chances. There are no do-overs.

If nothing else, this past decade has convinced me that we're a failure as a species. We have so much potential, it's criminal how much we've failed ourselves and each other. On the upside, at least we'll all be dead much sooner than we know. Someday, this poor planet can have a functioning ecosystem again as it consumes our ruin.

I'd say that we've succumbed to our worse nature, but that would imply that we have a better nature. Taking the long view of our species, it's probably more honest to say that greed and destructive, obsessive self-interest are our nature. That inner wretchedness with which we continuously struggle in an endless battle against what it is that we actually are and loathe to acknowledge. We try to be better, but there's too many of us who are too set on the idea that we're all players in a vicious game of winner-take-all, or we're simply too apathetic to care about any of the things that matter. That as individuals, we're powerless - and if we can't come together as a collective of individuals to change things for the better, we are. It's a losing battle.

If this blog drew enough readers to actually have a readerbase to speak of - here's a shout-out to the ghostly few who do pop by and all you lovely people who come here via Google searches and leave immediately - somebody would probably come along and tell me to shut up. To never forget - that 9/11 changed everything, so our continued violence isn't just okay. It's heroic and patriotic. This sentiment drips from so many corners of this country. And it's an illness that afflicts all of us - those of us wearing ourselves down fighting it the most acutely.

In the end, it appears that above all else, we're too selfish, too hateful, too apathetic, too proudly ignorant to survive.

That said, my condolences to all those who lost family and friends a decade ago today, and to everyone whose lives we ended or otherwise wrongly ruined in response. And even more sympathy to the first responders, whom we've failed to even properly look after as their health began to fail following their sincerely heroic work in the wake of the attacks. Most people don't have it in them to do what they did, or to make the sacrifices they now have for it. Human beings who've defied their nature and should continue to serve as a reminder to us all that we can be better. That we could.

This post? Total reader magnet. Also, I guess it's me inviting crazy people to put me on lists. The bad kind. Then again, isn't anything?

Osama Bin Laden's dead. But we didn't defeat him. And at the rate we're going, we may not. We aren't learning.

It's kind of funny how much more misanthropic I've become since my only other 9/11 post, from four years ago, back when this blog was just beginning. I had about as many readers back then as I do now.

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